Please tell us a little about yourself
I have been working in the field of Russian law since 1993. I have lived in Russia from 1996 to 1999, originally working for Arthur Andersen. I then spent 6 years in Brussels at the European Commission, working mainly on European Competition law. Then I taught European law in Riga for a year; spent 2005 and 2006 in Moscow, and then left for Ukraine for three years, where I started a law firm in Kyiv. After three years there I moved back to Moscow in 2009. I now specialise in advising German firms in Russian business and corporate law.
What are the main differences between German and Russian Business Law, as you see it?
Letâs start with what German and Russian business law has in common. They are both based on written law that is stated in statutes of law; unlike Anglo Saxon law, which is traditionally based on the spoken law, in the way the law is recorded. Anglo-Saxon law is to a large extent a judge-based law. In Germany as in Russia, our laws are established and written down, and interpreted by judges.
The difference between Russian and German law is in each countryâs legal history. In Germany for the last 100-150 years, we have had a market-based economy, which created the need for an adequate legal system, and in Russia for the past 20 years we have had the same capitalist system, but before that there was 70 years of socialism.
There is a large difference between German and Russian law on the level of interpretation. To put it simply, Russian lawyers tend to interpret the law word by word, and the German lawyer interprets the spirit of the law, which is still something unusual in Russia, although Russian lawyers will try to find out what the spirit of the law is.
What are the main differences that you have noticed in terms of living here?
I am an attorney in Berlin, which is not a small city, in our understanding, but has a population of only 3.5 million. Moscow has at least 12 million people, and both cities cover more or less the same territory. In Moscow there is obviously less green space than we have in Berlin. This influences the quality of life.
Everything is much more expensive here. Renting housing is roughly three times more expensive and to buy is even more, maybe four times as expensive as in Berlin. These are the main differences, then of course there is the high traffic volume in Moscow.
Is it important for a German lawyer to live in Russia in order to understand the way of doing things here?
I think itâs definitely an advantage if you live here and you actually understand what is going on. To understand what is going on means you have to speak the language. If you want to advise German business people on how to do business in Russia, then you must understand what is going on and how business is being done in Russia.
What do you love and hate about Moscow?
Well obviously I like it, otherwise I wouldnât have come back three times, and I have no plans to leave. What I would say about Moscow is that it is a big city. Itâs a city that offers a lot in terms of quality of life, in terms of culture with 50 or 60 theatres to choose from, three main opera halls, there is something going on every night.
What I donât like so much is the pollution that comes with a lot of traffic, the fact that it is difficult to get out to the countryside either by train or car. But overall, I like it a lot. I love the trips to the regions; I like it when I can combine a business trip with a bit of hiking.
Where do you go in Moscow; what do you do, when you want to be reminded of Germany?
When I want to be reminded of Germany I go to a German or Bavarian restaurant, to the Paulaner for example, however if I want to be reminded of Berlin I take a plane to Berlin which gets me there in two and a half hours. So it is faster to get to Berlin than to go to a dacha probably. Unlike the 1990âs when it was still difficult to get to the airports, and border control and customs were lengthy, these days itâs very fast and convenient, often a lot faster than in Germany.