Study trip of a Russian delegation to constitutional courts in Germany

In cooperation with the Russian Law Academy at the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation the IRZ organised a study visit on the topic “Statutory regulation of the working procedures of the Constitutional Courts of the Federal States of the Federal Republic of Germany” from 3rd to 6th October 2016 at the Constitutional Court of the Federal State of Berlin and of the Federal State of Brandenburg. The delegation consisted of the President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Karelia, Svetlana Beniaminova, and three representatives of the Russian Law Academy at the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation: Oxana Shabarshova, Head of Unit International Relations, Vadim Vinogradov, Head of the Chair for Constitutional Law and International Law as well as Danil Rybin, Director of the St. Petersburg branch of the Russian Law Academy at the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation.

At first the Russian guests visited the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection for expert talks. They were received by Ministerialrätin Alexandra Albrecht, Head of the International Legal Cooperation Division at the Federal Ministry of Justice, and Veronika Keller-Engels, IRZ Director. Then Claudia Eller-Funke, a speaker from the International Legal Cooperation Division at the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection presented the history, organisational structure and remit of the Ministry. Following her presentation, Public Prosecutor Johannes Gerds from the division for civil procedure and labour court procedure, gave an overview of the structure of the jurisdiction and the stages of appeal in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Afterwards the delegation was received at the Constitutional Court of the Federal State of Berlin by its Vice President, Dr. Robert Seegmüller, and two judges, Dr. Ulrich Last and Dr. Christian Quabeck. The programme of the expert exchange comprised procedural issues in the constitutional courts, the position and the tasks of the Constitutional Court of the Federal State of Berlin, issues regarding the scope of reviews carried out by the constitutional courts as well as the interaction between the Constitutional Courts of the Federal States and the Federal Constitutional Court.

These topics were discussed further during the visit to the Constitutional Court of the Federal State of Brandenburg. Its Managing Director Rena Schuncke, the Presiding Judge at the Regional Court and constitutional judge Andreas Jörg Dielitz and his colleague Thomas Jacob were pleased about the great interest shown by the Russian guests and the lively exchange of experiences. During the intense discussions the similarities and differences in the working procedures of the constitutional courts of both countries were identified in detail. 

Both parties regarded the expert talks as very enriching and would like to continue them in Russia next year. Both the Russian and the German side emphasized the importance of such an expert exchange between colleagues.

Bilateral conferences in Moscow and Kaluga on the role of the internet in official business

In partnership with the Law Academy of the Ministry of Justice for the Russian Federation, the IRZ held a conference on “The Internet in official business: legal organization and security” in Moscow on 30 June 2016. The event was repeated with the same lectures on 1 July in Kaluga.

Russian scientists reported on the legal organization of the use of internet technologies in state administration. In this context, the need to develop an independent code of information was one of the subjects that was addressed. During the event, the Russian speakers also examined the legal nature of the “Electronic state” and “E-government” and proposed legal approaches to these institutions. The Russian colleagues also reported on the legal safeguarding of the international security of information. It was noted that, due to the fact that the internet transcends national borders and in view of the application of international law to the territory of the Russian Federation, intense international legal cooperation is extremely important.

The German speakers described the legal framework for information technology in Germany. The participants in the conference were informed about the IT Security Act, which came into force in Germany in 2015. The legal right to information and its restrictions were also discussed. The German experts also reported specifically on the digitalization of legal proceedings in Germany. In this respect, there was a presentation of the pilot project carried out by the higher regional court of Cologne for processing records purely electronically. The experiences of the German colleagues in this area were very valuable for the Russian participants, especially in view of the fact that the transition to the electronic filing of documents is due to take place over the coming year in Russia.

Conference on the role played by local government authorities in developing the local economy

On 25 May 2016, a conference was held in Moscow on “Developing the local economy: the role of local government authorities”. The conference was organised by the IRZ together with the Russian Committee for Civil Initiatives (KGI). This event was part of a project financed by the German Foreign Office on “Supporting legal collaboration in the Russian Federation”.

Leading Russian academics from the fields of community and tax law, experienced financial experts and local government agency representatives took part in the conference. From the German side, the former Mayor of Schweinfurt, Gudrun Grieser, and the Managing Director of GRIBS (a company offering advice and consultancy for innovations and start-ups based in Schweinfurt, Germany), Reinhold Karl, took part in the event.

The Russian speakers reported on the legal and administrative options for local communities to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The individual mechanisms for providing legal support and the potential for providing informal support and advice were discussed. Questions were raised about the lack of efficiency in implementing legal measures for supporting SMEs. The Russian experts provided an in-depth insight into the fiscal and banking regulations for supporting SMEs. In this respect, the advantages and disadvantages of the Russian system of collecting taxes in the workplace rather than at the home of the tax-payer were discussed, amongst other things. Small communities situated close to larger and economically stronger towns (satellite communities) are at a particular disadvantage thanks to the current tax collection system, which means that there is no or insufficient motivation to support economic development at community level.

The German speakers presented both the legal foundations and their practical experience of community support for the local economy. They explained, amongst other things, the relevant provisions of the German Commercial and Civil Codes (HGB and BGB), the law on limited liability companies (GmbHG) and trade regulations (GewO). They also reported on community support for the economy through the optimisation of location factors, such as the designation of adequate commercial premises, the efficient exploitation of industrial estates, attractive local taxes and the development and support of business incubators sponsored by the community. Further potential for community support for the economy through the upkeep of location factors, such as the community allocation policy, town planning that takes start-ups into account and building permit processes, was also discussed. The German representatives also provided a comprehensive overview of the existing programme in Germany for supporting SMEs. Following the lectures, there were some lively discussions about the similarities and differences between the various measures and mechanisms for supporting SMEs in Russia and Germany.