“Refugees and Gastarbejtery” is the title of the 12th German‑Russian Youth Parliament, the official opening of which took place at the Federal Foreign Office on Monday (14 November). Enthusiastic young people from both countries have gathered to cooperate on developing proposals on how to tackle the current challenges posed by displacement and migration. And of course to promote German‑Russian understanding.
Partnership of societies
Speaking recently on relations between the two countries, Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier said that the partnership between Russia and Germany was “a partnership in which not only the political level was important, but which also depends on partnership between universities and schools, associations and civil society institutions, cities and regions”. The German‑Russian Youth Parliament is a vibrant example of this kind of partnership.
Andreas Peschke, Director for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia at the Federal Foreign Office, stressed at the start of the event: “In times of unmistakable and deep division between the West and Russia at the political level, ties between people become all the more vital. We need to counteract the threat of estrangement between our societies. The Youth Parliament can help to do this.” Looking to the days ahead, he expressed the hope that “Perhaps acquaintances will be made here which blossom into friendships that will enrich you for a long time to come.”
Planning exercise over several days
The 50 participants are involved in a sophisticated planning exercise over four days, featuring parliamentary group sessions, expert hearings, committee work and at the end a large plenary session in which the findings will be presented and debated. The event has been organised by the Foundation for German-Russian Youth Exchange in cooperation with the Russian Federation's National Council for Children and Youth Associations in Russia. The issue of displacement and migration has also played a key role in the history of German‑Russian relations: one hundred years ago, people fleeing from the Russian civil war found refuge with their western neighbours, just as those persecuted by National Socialism subsequently sought refuge in Moscow.
On Friday (18 November), the Russian guests will return home. Hopefully they will take with them a wealth of new friendships with their German parliamentary colleagues.