On November 9, 1990 our countries signed the bilateral Treaty on Good-Neighbourly Relations, Partnership and Cooperation. A unique treaty for its time, it is rightly called the ‘Grand Treaty’. The document was invoked to lay a solid foundation for bringing Russia and Germany closer together, for their creative and active cooperation in the interests of the whole of European civilization. In effect, it has fulfilled its mission and, moreover, has become a model of new relations between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe.
I have many links with Germany. I have lived here for years. I have seen and felt how painful it is for people to live in a divided country. It was a division of not only territory, but of the nation. The tragedy of separation hit many families and ruined many human lives. The Berlin Wall divided not only Germany. It was a symbol of the division of Europe and the world into two hostile camps.
Ten years ago the Soviet Union played the decisive role in bringing about the peaceful reunification of Germany. It was an epoch-making event that opened a very special chapter in the recent history of mankind. In effect the Grand Treaty marked the end of the Cold War. The will of the people had compelled political leaders to put an end to the years of confrontation and initiate a movement toward erecting the edifice of a single Europe.
The tenth anniversary of the Grand Treaty being marked today is a good occasion for looking back on the path we have travelled together to assess how fully we have managed to tap the potential of mutual trust built into the Treaty.
I believe that this fundamental Russian-German document has withstood the test of time and has proved to be an effective mechanism of partnership. From the moment of signing Russia and Germany established a new level of mutual understanding and confidence. It happened, among other things, because Russia strictly kept its obligations on troop withdrawal. I would like to stress that the operation, which required massive financial outlays, was carried out strictly on schedule in spite of the economic crisis and painful social and economic reforms in our country.
During the past decade Russia and the united Germany have made great advances in building bilateral relations. Witness the meaningful political dialogue, and the progressive development of the treaty and regulatory-legal basis of cooperation that now involves practically all its key areas. Interaction is developing vigorously under the programmes of training specialists for Russia, as do contacts between Russian regions and federal lands in Germany, partnerships between dozens of cities, scientific, cultural and other exchanges.
There is a mutual desire to use the potential of our cooperation more fully. We have it and the German side has it. We have agreed to move in this direction with the Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, during the latest round of top-level Russian-German consultations in Berlin. So I would like to dwell on some aspects of our relations and possible ways of developing them.
The present state of bilateral trade and economic relations clearly does not match their great potential. Of course, Germany is a solid consumer of Russian oil and gas and German partners readily supply industrial equipment to our country. But such exchanges are the relations of yesterday in the context of globalization. The real potential of Russian-German economic cooperation, I am convinced, can be tapped by developing cooperation in science-intensive, high technology sectors of industry. Russia has some “ground-breaking” developments that we propose to implement together with our European, above all German partners, for example, in the production and modernization of aviation technology and in outer space.
I have no doubt that if we manage to shed the stereotypes of the Cold War and think strategically, both sides will gain from the implementation of these projects. Developing such model projects that could give a boost to the business ties between our countries is the task of the recently created High-Level Working Group on strategic aspects of trade-economic and financial cooperation.
One of the main goals of the Grand Treaty was to continue and build on the achievements of previous years of cooperation between our country and West as well as East Germany. We can hardly claim that this goal has been fully achieved. The plummeting of Russian ties with the Eastern federal lands and their not always justified reorientation towards new partners rather suggest the opposite. And yet East Germany has a valuable human potential, people who have a hands-on knowledge of our country, many of whom have studied and worked in Russia, a potential that could be very useful in various areas of Russian-German relations.
One shouldn’t underestimate the opportunities offered by such a bond between us as the hundreds of thousands of Russian citizens who have fulfilled their wish to go to their historical homeland in Germany, and the more than half a million Germans who continue to live and work in Russia. Both Moscow and Berlin are ready to assist ethnic Germans in humanitarian as well as economic matters.
Russian-German interaction today is inseparable from the processes of integration in the whole of Europe. The Grand Treaty commits us to combining efforts in building a new Europe, creating a strong and just European order and stable security structures. Its authors, like the authors of the Paris Charter adopted by the OSCE in November 1990, saw the future Europe as a common space of law, democracy and cooperation in all the spheres of the economy, culture and information. I think there is still potential for building up Russian-German interaction in the interests of the whole continent.
Today we should not forget such key provisions of the Grand Treaty as the obligation of the Parties to prevent war in whatever form, to ensure the primacy of universally recognised norms of international law in international politics, to strengthen the universal role of the UN and renounce the use or threat of force in violation of the UN Charter, and the obligation of the Parties to immediately launch bilateral consultations in the event of a threat to peace or other complications of the international situation.
Finally – and this is also mentioned in the Treaty – our countries can oppose international terrorism, religious extremism and trans-national organised crime which is a danger to all of us. The countries of Europe have learned from their own bitter experience the fateful consequences of underestimating xenophobia and extreme nationalism, which were recently added to the list of humankind’s woes at the turn of the century and the millennium.
Assessing the current state of Russian-German relations it should be noted that by showing mutual respect and treating each other as equals we have managed to surmount the barriers of prejudice and stereotypes. The process of historical reconciliation between the Russians and the Germans owed much to repentance in the face of millions of victims of Nazism, the fact that present-day German leaders have assumed responsibility for the past and also to the solution of the humanitarian issues connected with the aftermath of the Second World War.
An equally important element is the preservation, in line with bilateral agreements, of the memory of the hundreds of thousands of our compatriots who gave their lives for the liberation of the peoples of Europe, including the German people, from Nazism, and who are buried on German land. Germany pays much attention to tending Russian military cemeteries and monuments. We highly appreciate that. I hope you know that in Russia too German military cemeteries are being improved.
There are other problems that we have inherited from the past. One is the fate of the Orthodox Churches, which are historical and cultural monuments, and which were expropriated under the Nazi Law of 1938. I am convinced that the political will and the balanced and civilized approach of our Governments will help to settle that issue as well. We are finding pragmatic solutions to the problem that has long been a “stumbling block” in Russian-German relations. I am referring to the displaced cultural values.
The Grand Treaty looks to the future. It will take years to fully realise the positive potential built into it. So, the human factor assumes particular significance: active cooperation between young generations of politicians, scientists, artists and painters, people from different walks of life in our countries, the development of intensive and well-planned student, youth and professional exchanges, the holding of international quizzes and contests devoted to the traditions of our peoples. We should give thought to improving the situation with language study: the study of German and Russian languages in order to understand each other without intermediaries. They say that to understand means to forgive. I will say more: to understand means to make friends and to learn to work together for Peace.
As our countries mark the 10th Anniversary of the Grand Treaty they are optimistic about achieving, in the near future, maximum returns on the implementation of the Action Programme envisaged by the Grand Treaty between our countries, returns that would make a tangible difference for all Russians and Germans.
I would like to note the importance of our agreement with Federal Chancellor Schroeder on creating an annual Russian-German Forum of representatives of the public, politicians, captains of industry and cultural figures in our countries – all those who are displaying an active interest in Russian-German relations and are ready to be directly involved in developing a long-term strategy of cooperation between our countries. I think this long-overdue initiative could give an additional impetus to Russian-German interaction in various areas in accordance with the spirit and the ideas of the Grand Treaty.