Ulrich Brandenburg: “After the Olympics, we will continue working with the North Caucasus”
Interview by Vestnik Kavkaza
In recent weeks, Russian-German relations, which are based on close economic cooperation, have been worsened by events in Ukraine, which rejected the signing of an association agreement with the EU in late November. The new foreign minister of Germany, Frank Walter Steinmeier, criticized Russia for putting pressure on Kiev over the issue of association with the EU, stating that Moscow used economic problems of Ukraine in its own interests. However, Ulrich Brandenburg, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Federal Republic of Germany to Russia, told Vestnik Kavkaza that Germany develops relations with Russia intensively, as well as with the South Caucasus states.
- Mr. Ambassador, please tell us about cooperation and contacts between Germany and the North and South Caucasus.
- We have embassies in the republics of the South Caucasus - in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. They have long been working there, right from the day of the independence of these republics. In the North Caucasus we have an honorary consul in the city of Krasnodar, and there are quite regular contacts and visits. We have one commissioner at our embassy who is regularly engaged in the affairs of this region travelling to Krasnodar. Another colleague regularly visits Stavropol, has contacts with Mr. Khloponin and other representatives of the local authorities, of course, in this region. Now, of course, the focus is on the Olympic Games in Sochi, and we prepare our own office, you might say, in Sochi, albeit this will be a temporary agency. We expect that there will be a large number of athletes from Germany, journalists. As for regular visitors to the Olympics, I have not yet got the figures, of course. After the Olympics, of course, we will continue our work with the North Caucasus, such as economic cooperation and cultural ties, ties with the universities.
- Will the president and Angela Merkel attend the Sochi Olympic Games?
- The president will not come, this was already decided a few months ago, and it is not very surprising, because before him the president, his predecessor, did not come to the Winter Olympic Games, to Vancouver, either. As for the chancellor and ministers - I do not know, because only tomorrow will we form a new government, and then the new government must address a number of issues, and among them will be participation in Sochi.
- Mr. Ambassador, please tell us, have you visited the North and the South Caucasus?
- I visited Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia, but that was long time ago. I even visited Sochi, but it was in Soviet times. And I visited Krasnodar twice. That’s all. It is a region with great prospects. I myself, as I have already said, visited mainly the Krasnodar region. It is interesting that there is now very good, high quality wine there. This, I think, is a new development, and it shows a glimpse of the chances of this region in agriculture.
- Please tell us how you plan to overcome the crisis of German multiculturalism, and are there any plans to have contacts with Russia on this issue?
- It is necessary, of course, to look at the experience that you have and that we have in Germany. One difference may be in the fact that Germany is a traditionally homogeneous country. We had no significant migration, and it started in the 1960-1970 years of the last century. Now, de facto Germany has become a country to which there is substantial migration, and therefore, of course, the problem of integration of people... At first we thought that these people, migrant workers, would come only for a few years and then return home. That did not happen. Most of them are still in Germany. And now the main task is to integrate not only the first generation, but also their children, who, although they have grown up in Germany, sometimes do not even speak the language well and have other problems. It is our experience, and different types of immigration continue. In Russia the situation is slightly different, because you are a very multi-ethnic country, not only the Soviet Union, but also the Russian Federation, so everyone knows that you have many nationalities. The experience of a country like Russia, of course, is interesting for us.