15 years on the field of cooperation


Krestyanskiye VedomostiKrestyanskiye Vedomosti newspaper No.17-18, April 2009


On 16 April 2009 the German-Russian Agro-Political Dialogue turned 15. All through these years the project promoted cooperation between Germany and Russia in agriculture. In its framework, the Russian agrarian legislature was attuned to the European standards and a bilateral exchange proceeded in exchange of expertise of how to address political and economic issues.

Officials of the German Ministry of Agriculture, the Eastern Committee for German Economy, the Bundestag deputies, top executives of the German farming business, and other participants of the project arrived in Moscow to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the German-Russian Political Dialogue. A rich business agenda awaited the high-ranking delegation in Moscow.

On an early morning of April 16, the German delegation, accompanied by Nikolay Kalinin, a member of the Agrarian Committee, familiarized themselves with how the State Duma works. They asked about the structure and operating principles of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the regulatory bills it passes and the financial issues it handles.

During their first visit to the German Bundestag in 1994 the Russian deputies asked similar questions. Back then we were stunned, N.Kalinin says. It seemed it would take ages to establish the same order in and introduce high technologies to the Russian farming. However, a mere 15 years have passed, and the Russian dairy complexes are not any worse than German ones.

The anti-crisis consulting

A round table, held on the same day at the State Duma (the Russian Parliament), dealt with the farming in crisis, with regulation of agricultural markets and with the food supply security. The German guests took part in the round table along with members of the Federation Council, Public Chamber, Russian government, Federal Ministries, and regional legislative and executive agencies.

Opening the session, Valentin Denisov, chairman of the State Duma Agrarian Committee, reported the amendments to the law on budget. Also, he enumerated the measures envisioned this year for supporting the national farming. In addition, he said that in the current difficult situation account must be taken of the world’s experience in the development of anti-crisis strategies. Therefore, the Committee on Agrarian Issues intends to intensify – in the framework of the German-Russian Agro-Political Dialogue – the study of Germany’s and the EU’s experience in the development of agriculture during the economic crisis.

Dr. Jörg Wendisch, director of the department of the German Federal Ministry of Food Supply, Agriculture and Consumer Rights Protection, pointed out that the financial crisis did not spare Germany. However, the federal government is already taking measures to improve the situation. Among them is protection of the banking sector, which may ensure the liquidity of agricultural enterprises. The banks operating in farming have no shortage of credit funds, Dr. J.Wendisch noted. The private and state investment projects are substantially supported. The funds made available in compliance with “The Law on Investments in Future Development of Land and Municipal Entities” are used to improve the rural infrastructure (construction of roads, heat supply systems, and communications network). Dr. J.Wendisch believes that these and other measures taken by the state will help to realize the investment projects and increase the spending on the agro-industrial complex by 50 billion euro.

The participants of the round table also discussed other means of supporting the two countries’ farming industries and the ways of helping them overcome the crises. Besides, Dr. J.Wendisch familiarized the visitors with the European Commission’s forecast of prices for the basic foods till 2011.

The popular diplomacy

The dialogue continued at the German Embassy in Russia where a party was held dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the project. Stefan Duerr, the founder and the acknowledged leader of the project, reminded of its milestones. The first one was the taking of the determinative political decisions. “In 1994 nobody knew where we were heading,” he says. “Will the land be privately owned? The Duma was considering fundamental issues. The fact that Russia managed to preserve major enterprises without splitting them into small farms but establishing cooperatives, is, indisputably, a merit to the German-Russian Agro-Political Dialogue.

The next stage was the time of confrontation. From 1997 through 2000 decision making was practically blocked,” S.Duerr recalls. “The President and the Parliament differed widely over how to develop the farming industry. But in 2000 the situation changed and the third stage began. This was the period of constructive work and creative endeavours. The chief problems in the state were solved,” S.Duerr notes. “The situation had stabilized. It became possible to fine-tune the law on the turnover of farming land, to organize cooperatives and their unions and to address other issues. That was the time when the main political tools were created in Russia for steady development of farming.”

S.Duerr believes that the biggest success of the project was the meeting of people, deputies, and experts. The trips of Russian deputies to Germany and of German ones to Russia, the conduct of conferences, seminars, and round tables were also very useful. “Those meetings covered the most acute agrarian and farming problems,” S.Duerr says. “Since the truth is always a product of a dialogue, the project was named German-Russian Agro-Political Dialogue.”

Many of the current laws have been developed based on this project. Those are the laws on agricultural cooperation, on seed production, and on development of farming. We orientate ourselves towards the expertise of Germany. We implanting it in our laws, adapted to the Russian realities and put into practice. This brought remarkable results, V.Denisov noted while congratulating the project participants on the jubilee. In a way, this is a popular diplomacy. The chairman of the agrarian committee thanked the German colleagues for not leaving Russia in hard times, for showing the right way and for helping to achieve such outstanding results.

The prospective partnership

In conclusion, S.Duerr presented his successor, Herald Hoppe, the chief of department at the German Ministry of Food Supplies and Protection of Consumer Rights. In three months he will come to Moscow to work closely on this project. He expressed hope that the deputies and officials of the Federation Council would accord a warm welcome to Mr. H.Hoppe as they always did to him. S.Duerr is sure that his successor will continue cooperation and become a strong link between Germany and Russia.

In an interview to Krestyanskiye Vedomosti, H.Hoppe aired his views on the future of the project entrusted to him.

“We have a stable foundation for future work,” he said. “Naturally, this dialogue must be continued and intensified, involving new regions. In talks with participants of the round table at the State Duma we have outlined the main aspects of our work. These are personnel training, development of farming lands, regulation of land turnover, and foreign trade. In my opinion, the focus today must be on social issues. But on the other hand, in present conditions it is essential to ensure competition at agricultural enterprises on all levels, from the farms to large holding companies. Here education will play a key role because Russia already has the technologies but is short of people capable of introducing them.”

Diana Nasonova, Krestyanskiye Vedomosti.