Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle to the Association of Russian Lawyers, Moscow, 1 November 2010

02.11.2010 - Speech

-- Translation of advanced text --

Ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank you kindly for the invitation to join you today.

Being a lawyer myself, it is a special pleasure to be here as a guest of the Association of Russian Lawyers and to have this opportunity to discuss various issues with fellow jurists and practitioners.

The rule of law isn’t something that can simply be written down and promulgated, and thereby has effect. The rule of law is rather a characteristic of a society, something that permeates it.

Only if a state truly implements the rule of law can it become an area of freedom, in which everybody enjoys equal rights and equal protection. This goal is worth all the effort required.

The rule of law is not just a concern for our human and civil rights policy. Business, too, needs the rule of law. The existence of rule-of-law structures in the economic sphere and compliance by the authorities with the rule of law are what make a system reliable and are thus key prerequisites for investment and trade.

Our modernization partnership is an expression of the close ties based on trust that have long existed between our two countries and societies.

The modernization partnership has a wide agenda. Our cooperation should focus on law and the rule of law as a key priority. On this I am in full agreement with my counterpart Sergey Lavrov, with whom I spoke at length earlier today.

What we seek is in principle an intensified legal exchange between two countries that both belong to the European legal tradition. This exchange should be pursued in a spirit of openness and mutual respect and should not eschew critical issues.

Even now, a number of German-Russian legal projects are under way. Many stakeholders are active in the field. These include, for example, the Petersburg dialogue and the justice ministries, as well as numerous universities and foundations.

Two German law professors who have long fostered this exchange are on this panel today. They are just two of many.

We want to intensify this exchange. The existing projects should receive more political backing, be better coordinated and expanded.

Germany and Russia could organize a symposium every year bringing together people from all three branches of government, as well as academics, lawyers and businessmen. Selected themes could be looked at more closely at additional events.

We should also do more to promote joint training for German and Russian lawyers. Our aim is to educate a new generation of lawyers who are familiar with the legal systems of both countries.

Germany proposes to launch a German-Russian programme to foster cooperation on legal research, which would above all help future academics acquire specialized knowledge in the field. The programme should be jointly funded by both sides. Germany is willing to provide roughly 600,000 euro.

Legal cooperation is a dialogue, and dialogue is something that is pursued by people. I am here with you today, because it is lawyers, in particular, from our two countries, whom we want to win over to make our joint project a reality.

I would also like your opinion on which fields of cooperation would be the most fruitful.

The list of interesting and useful issues is long.

Providing an approachable and transparent bureaucracy for our citizens is, for example, something that is also the subject of much debate in Germany.

Migration and integration are topical issues with which both Germany and Russia have been faced, and on which we would benefit from an exchange of experience.

The ongoing reform of civil law in Russia would also be a prime topic for the initiative.

Other areas of the law could also be added. Commercial and company law, or consumer protection and environmental law are examples that spring to mind.

This legal cooperation between our two countries isn’t something that takes place in a vacuum. Relations between Germany and Russia have today reached a level that would hardly have been considered possible twenty years ago. Economic integration, political cooperation, cultural exchange, civil society contacts – in all areas our relations today stand on a broad and solid foundation.

I attach great importance to enhancing the ties between Russia and Germany, between Russia and the European Union, and indeed the West as a whole, ever further. Judged by its history, its geography and its culture, Russia is without a doubt part of the European family.

I have a vision of a Europe of common freedom, common security and common prosperity. Cooperation in the field of law can also make a key contribution to this. We face a constitutive task of European dimensions. I hope that Germany and Russia will join forces to address this challenge together.

But now I would very much like to hear your suggestions and questions regarding our legal initiative. I look forward to the discussion.

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