German-Russian relations thrive above all on the many different contacts existing between our societies. At the Federal Foreign Office on Thursday (13 July), young people from Germany and Russia celebrated the end of the German-Russian Youth Exchange Year 2016/2017 in the company of State Secretary Ederer and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
A revived Exchange
State Secretary Ederer was impressed by the young people: “With their own ideas and concrete projects, they brought this exchange year to life and approached each other with great openness.” This understanding, he went on, enabled trust to grow, or to be rebuilt where it had been lost. As a result, there has been a shift in trend: there was a tangible revival in the exchange between Germany and Russia.
Despite the political differences
The Youth Exchange Year is one of several crossover years organised between the two countries. The next one is following on now: together with his Russian colleague, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel launched the German-Russian year of municipal and regional partnerships 2017/2018 in Krasnodar at the end of June. Speaking then, the Minister stressed that it was above all the links between engaged individuals, towns and cities which carried and characterised relations between Russia and Germany: “Despite some policy differences, for instance on Ukraine and Syria, we must not abandon exchange between our civil societies.” It was, in a sense, he said “international understanding from the bottom up”.
Strengthening cooperation between civil societies
Since 2014, the Federal Foreign Office has been supporting civil-society cooperation in Russia and Eastern Partnership countries to the tune of fourteen million euros annually for hundreds of projects. Initiatives like the crossover years are intended to strengthen and intensify the exchange between Germany and Russia.