Competition and Cooperation
On April 19th, 2016, a seminar on ‘Federalism and Regionalism in Russia and Germany’ took place at HSE in St. Petersburg as part of the 13th German Week in St. Petersburg.
The seminar was organized by the Department of History and the Department of Political Science at HSE in St. Petersburg together with the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in St. Petersburg and the Forum of Federations.
According to Pietro Merlo, head of the Department of Culture, Press and Communications at the German Consulate General in St. Petersburg, Russian-German relationships have a rich tradition, which is inseparable from both countries’ history, and this dialogue in culture, education, research, public life and economics strengthens mutual values. He delivered an official welcome to the seminar participants from Dr. Heike Peitsch, Consul General of the Federal Republic of Germany in St. Petersburg.
‘We work tirelessly to support and develop closer and more comprehensive ties between Germany and Russia. During times of political tension, Germany Week’s contribution is especially important for keeping the Russian-German partnership fresh, since it opens up an opportunity for broader dialogue and promotes mutual understanding. We give priority to the issues related to future challenges to our society, from climate change to innovation strategies, from migration to federalism,’ said Mr. Merlo.
Felix Knüpling, Head of Programmes at theForum of Federations, an NGO, gave some details on the topic of the seminar. He emphasized that the principle of federalism, which is guaranteed by our countries’ titles and constitutions, supports the unity of the nation and helps preserve the variety of regions. Such a state structure takes into account the differences between territories that are part of it and guarantees equal rights for them.
Alexander Semyonov, Deputy Director of the HSE Campus in St. Petersburg and Head of the Department of History, noted that the Russian Federation and the Federal Republic of Germany are both states that follow the principles of federalism. But historical traditions and politics mean that the two countries have different views on federalism. While Russia has always had the connective power of a centralized state and top-down governance structure in the spotlight, the Germans associate federalism primarily with distinctive identity and subsidiarity.
‘The seminar participants are interested in two key issues. The first is the question of the historical roots of such a different understanding of federalism. The other has to do with today: it’s interesting to discuss the principle of territory governance by federal governments in Germany and Russia and to understand what principles lay in the basis of their cooperation with regional governments and elites. We’d like to talk about how the past influences these models of spatial governance and local development and imagine what federalism will look like in 20 years,’ said Prof. Semyonov, defining the seminar’s tasks.
Dietmar Wulff, Associate Professor at the HSE Department of History in St. Petersburg: ‘I believe that HSE’s participation in the German Week is a good opportunity to demonstrate its achievements, all the more so that the university is developing German studies in several programmes today. It organizes joint events, attracts professors, and is expanding its exchange programme. This is promising, since Germany is close and there’s a mutual interest in developing cooperation. Despite the sanctions and a cool-down in the political climate, there are spheres of interaction not influenced by them, most notably higher education and research. These spheres have preserved normal relations, and there are no cuts in funding in these areas. Our cooperation is developing and causing a synergetic effect. Cooperation is an international phenomenon: joint work leads to mutual profit. Importantly, German researchers are monitoring the development of science in Russia; they are looking for partners, they come to Russia and are ready to welcome young researchers at their institutions. Such big academic centres as the Higher School of Economics can’t flourish without such cooperation. Competition and cooperation are two sides of the same coin!
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