№28. Conference “Russian-German economic relations: reboot”

Published: March 31st, 2017

One of the themes of the fifth Moscow Economic Forum was the development of Russian-German cooperation. Large industrialists, business leaders, scientists and public figures who participated in the round table "Russian-German Economic Relations: Reloading" shared their experience and told how to find a way out of a crisis in the political and economic relations of countries. Moderators of the discussion also represented Russia and Germany. They were the Russian economist, political scientist, publicist, public figure, member of the IEF Organizing Committee Andrei Kobyakov and managing partner of the Moscow office of BEITEN BURKHARDT law firm, chairperson of the European Committee of the MEF Falk Tischendorf.

Opening the discussion, Tischendorf noted that the very idea of ​​the Russian-German session arose because of a successful discussion of the issues of Russian-German cooperation in non-primary sectors of the economy. It is important that the relations between Russia and Germany are not one-sided, when raw materials come from Russia and everything else from Germany. Such asymmetric trade is leading Russia to a standstill, Tischendorf stressed. Germany remains one of Russia's key partners. And this is proved by the figures: in the period from 2012 to 2016 enterprises from 30 countries opened about 200 factories in Russia, 55 of them were opened with German participation.

More than 600 thousand German companies operate in Russia - such data was provided by Horst Telchik, former foreign and security policy adviser to former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, chairman of the Munich Security Conference in 1999-2008.

"There are always disputes in politics: is the economy an instrument for developing relations, especially for improving political relations. My experience shows: the better the political relations between countries, the better economic interconnections. And economic interconnections, unfortunately, do not automatically lead to an improvement in political dialogue. Therefore, we should move in both directions, "said Telchik. Former adviser to Helmut Kohl is convinced that, despite political difficulties, it is necessary to fight for better relations.

Great disgrace for Russia, Germany and the European Union called the current state of international relations Ruslan Grinberg, co-chairman of the Forum, scientific director of the Institute of Economics of the Russian Academy of Sciences. According to him, the countries are, if not in a state of cold war, then in a state of cold peace. The most disturbing thing is that states have lost mutual trust that is why the "Minsk format" is not being promoted.

"The level of uncertainty of the future is unprecedented. I am 70 years old; I have never experienced such anxiety as now. We got Brexit, we got an exotic president in the United States - it's generally unpredictable in my view, and therefore the restoration of our relations is simply non-alternative, "Greenberg said.

The co-chairman of the MEF sees the only way out for Europe in cooperation, returning to the idea of Gorbachev about a single European house from Vladivostok to Lisbon.

Politicians are now in a difficult situation: on the one hand, they understand that the "Minsk format" is blocked, on the other hand, without a loss of face, they are looking for some way out of these sanctions, the president of Siemens in Russia Dietrich Möller said. He expressed confidence that there were more difficult moments in the history of relations between Russia and Germany, and today's crisis affects not so much German business in Russia, but rather political relations.

Speaking about the work of the German company in Russia, Möller noted that only about 50 thousand employees in one way or another are connected with Siemens business in our country. The corporation plans to launch and continue the implementation of large projects, including the return of the so-called white elephants - the third series of "Sapsanov" for the route Moscow-Kazan. The investments of other German companies are also returning. One of their key factors for business is stability, and over the past six months the situation in Russia has relatively stabilized, there are certain signs of a warming attitude, summarized Möller.

The co-chairman of the Forum, the president of the Industrial Union «New Commonwealth» Konstantin Babkin, told the peculiarities of economic relations with Germany. He noted that the relations between the two countries sometimes take an acute character, and it is important to always discuss them, and to discuss frankly.

"As an entrepreneur, the actions of German politicians and Germany against Ukraine are not very clear to me. A coup was carried out with the support of German politicians: a government that has a clearly russophobic nature came to power - now it is simply dangerous for Ukraine to express the idea that it is necessary to restore Russian-Ukrainian ties and introduce integration between our countries - they are simply killed there. Moreover, I do not see a clear condemnation of this approach by European politicians. The fact itself is incomprehensible to me, and causes cooling in relations between our societies, "Konstantin Babkin emphasized.

The President of the Industrial Union "New Commonwealth" especially noted that political decisions affect business: the trade turnover between Russia and Germany has fallen by three times in three years, as well as imports from Germany to Russia.

"The Russians all advocate integration between our countries, but we must introduce not only a clear business interaction, but also an understandable policy, and not encourage forces that are anti-human in nature," concluded the co-chairman of the MEF,

Reboot relations is impossible if both sides will only blame each other for what happened in the past, said the head of the Moscow representation of the Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Germany Matthias Shepp. To restart the relationship requires a sober look at the real situation, and not in the past, the expert is sure. He unequivocally spoke out against anti-Russian sanctions. Speaking about the consequences of the sanctions policy, Shepp said that over the past three or four years there was a constant outflow of companies.

"In 2011, there were 6,300 companies registered in Russia, now - 5,237 companies. However, at the same time, representative offices left that were rather sluggish, and all the companies that had strong positions remained, "the speaker said. Shepp noted Russia's success in improving the investment climate, which has a key role in doing business in the country.

Turning to a higher degree of economic integration, despite a certain degradation of political relations between Russia and Germany, called and vice president of the Chamber of Commerce of Russia Dmitry Kurochkin. It is necessary not only to expand trade turnover, but also to deepen industrial cooperation for the creation of value chains and joint access to the markets of third countries.

In conclusion, the round table participants noted that it is necessary to fight for the development of relations between Russia and Germany, guided primarily by pragmatic interests, and not by statements of politicians. It is also necessary to work on strengthening mutual trust, which has been somewhat shaken in recent years. The IEF Speakers expressed their confidence that good and close relations are possible between Germany and Russia, and not only economic relations. Both states are interested in this.