Moscow and Berlin pledge to support innovation

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel walk through a garden before their meeting during the German-Russian consultations in Hanover July 18, 2011 (AFP Photo / Getty Images)
Russia and Germany will create a joint fund to support high-tech, innovative and energy-efficient small and medium-sized enterprises, the countries’ leaders announced during a meeting with members of Russian and German business circles in Hannover.

­President Dmitry Medvedev is in Germany for an official two-day visit. On Tuesday morning, he and Chancellor Merkel had a working breakfast behind closed doors.

As the head of one of Russia’s largest banks, Vladimir Dmitriev, commented after the talks that within two or three years, the parties expected to contribute at least 1 billion euros to the nascent fund.

Both the Russian and German economic ministers took part in the meeting, as well as presidential aids Arkady Dvorkovich and Sergey Prikhodko.

Dmitry Medvedev and Angela Merkel have also attended the Russian-German public forum otherwise known as the “St. Petersburg Dialogue”. The theme of this year’s session is entitled “Citizens, Society and State– Partnership in Modernization” and is devoted to a number of varied issues, from the environment to the integration of migrants. The event is also being attended  by members of the Russian-German Youth Parliament, a public discussion forum which brings together young activists from both countries.

While speaking at the forum, Dmitry Medvedev addressed several issues. Among others, he discussed relations between NGOs and the Russian state.

“I totally agree that there’s distrust toward non-governmental organizations,” the Russian president said in response to a question from a member of the Memorial Human Rights Center. “This situation does not merely go back 8 or 10 years. This lack of trust is rooted in history, as all the initiatives from public structures and ordinary citizens aroused suspicion,” Medvedev observed, adding that those “rudiments” should be forgotten.

The possibility of the creation of public television in Russia was also among the topics that popped up at the St. Petersburg Dialogue forum on Tuesday. President Medvedev said that he is ready to consider the idea if concrete proposals on the funding of such broadcasters are made.

“Public television is a good thing,” he said, adding that Russia could use Germany's experience on the matter. 

For Medvedev, the principles on which the work of this television would be based were of primary concern.  Medvedev believes that if broadcasters are funded by taxpayers, “it might cause problems”.

Therefore, other sources of financing should be found for the development of public TV – which would be independent from both the state and business and, at the same time, “reflect the consolidated position of civil society”.

“If such proposals (on funding) were developed, I would be ready to consider them,” Medvedev pointed out.

Medvedev added that to be totally independent, the media should switch to self-financing.

“It’s no good that the state helps some media outlets, especially provincial ones,” he pointed out. “The quicker we will be able to separate the mass media from the state, the better.” 

The issue of education was also on the forum’s agenda. The Russian president supported an initiative for intensifying student exchanges between Russia and Germany. Moreover, he stressed that one of the major goals is the mutual recognition of diplomas and degrees.

Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Germany on Monday where he partook in an unofficial working dinner with his counterpart.

According to the Presidential Press Secretary Natalia Timakova, the leaders discussed Russian-German economic agreements as well as several documents to be signed on Tuesday during their official talks. They also touched upon the situation in the eurozone and “shared their views on the current economic situations in both Russia and Germany,” Timakova commented.