Young Leaders´ Forums

Europe Meets Russia

April 2010

Europe Meets Russia: A Forum for Young Leaders

(April 11th – 16th 2010)

Forum Report

The weeklong conference for “Europe Meets Russia: a forum for Young Leaders” took place in Berlin from 11th April to 16th April 2010. The program focused on the following topics: contemporary topics in the EU-Russian relationship, the economic and political ties between Russia and the European Nations, European political bodies and the role of arts and media, breaking down cultural barriers, Russia’s European neighbours and future integration. Additional insights were given into the field of cultural diplomacy. Also leadership initiatives for young leaders were explored. The forum speakers included leading figures with a particular interest in Russo-European political and economic relations. The participants were awarded an official certificate of attendance at the end of the program, which confirmed attendance and provided details of the speakers who took part during the week and the topics discussed.

Forum Speakers

Mark C. Donfried (Director and Founder of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy)
Peter Rees (Managing Director of The ICD)
Dr. Petra Opitz (Economist and expert on energy sector policy; Manager at DIW econ)
Maria Kalinovskaya (PR and External communications at JSFC "Sistema")
Dr. Ulrich Brückner (Jean Monet Professor of European Studies, Stanford University on Berlin)
Øyvind Søtvik Rekstad (Representative of the Norwegian Embassy)
Alexander Rahr (Director of the Russian/Eurasia Program, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik e.V.)
Larissa Fontak (Visual Artist)
Robin Lautenbach (Former ARD-Correspondent in Poland)
Dr. Yuliya Ivanova (Consultant and trainer for cross-cultural competence in Moscow)
Dr. Sergei Nikitin
Dr. Marzenna Guz-Vetter (Representative of the European Commission)


  • ICD House of Arts and Culture
  • Representation of the European Commission in Germany
  • Norwegian Embassy
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik
  • German Parliament
  • Russian Embassy
  • Galerie J&L Fortak
  • German Foreign Office

Summary of Events

Sunday April 11th, 2010: Mark Donfried, founder of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy, opened the forum by giving the “Europe Meets Russia” participants an introduction to Cultural Diplomacy and soft power. The participants were welcomed to Berlin with a group dinner at Anastasia restaurant.

Monday April 12th, 2010: Peter Rees, Managing Director of The ICD, gave the participants an introduction to the leadership initiatives that the participants would be working towards throughout the week. Leadership initiatives give the participants a chance to discuss real-world solutions and in particular, the potential for economic bridges between countries. 

This was followed by a speech from Dr. Petra Opitz, an economist and expert on energy sector policy. She gave a lecture on the importance of gas lines across Europe and Russia. Her speech provided insight into how Russia would like to export electricity to the European Union. She highlighted the importance of a real framework for investment in energy efficiency.

The final lecture of the day was given by Peter Rees, about sports as cultural diplomacy in European-Russian relations. The participants were able to learn about historical examples of how sports have built cultural bridges between different countries and how sport can be used to unite international audiences.

Tuesday April 13th, 2010: The Europe Meets Russia Forum began its day at the European Commission where the participants heard a speech by Professor of European Studies Dr. Ulrich Brückner on contemporary economic and political relations between Europe and Russia.  During the question and answer session, participants were able to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between Europe and Russia, as well as a more concentrated comprehension of the current issues facing Europe and Russia such as multilateralism and strengthening economic ties.

At the Norwegian Embassy, the participants learned about Nordic strategies in building ties with Russia in a presentation by embassy representative Øyvind Søtvik Rekstad.  Through the speech, the EMR participants gathered a deeper understanding of international relations between Europe’s most northern states.

Wednesday April 14th, 2010: The day began with a visit to the Bundestag, which is where the German parliament resides. After an informative tour of the German parliamentary system, the participants were invited to visit the Russian embassy. This provided the participants with an insider’s perspective on parliamentary and diplomatic career paths.

Larissa Fontak kindly opened the doors of her collection to the ICD “Europe Meets Russia” seminar. Surrounded by paintings of her latest exhibition focused on female representation, she illustratively introduced the participants to the latest art trends and displayed her desire to improve the relations and understanding of Russian culture in Germany.

For the final lecture of the day, journalist Robin Lautenbach was scheduled to give a speech on the role of the media on European-Russian relations, but due to the recent tragic demise of the Polish president, he spoke with the participants on contemporary German-Polish relations. As a German living in Poland for the past fifteen years, Mr. Lautenbach’s poignant speech discussed the changing face of German perception of Poles and the diplomatic reaction to the death of Lech Kaczynski.

Thursday April 15th, 2010: For the morning session, EMR participants presented their take on leadership initiatives that had been introduced earlier in the week. They worked in small groups to network and discuss ideas, while creating presentations on the initiatives they developed over the week.

The conference then turned to the day’s theme of ‘Breaking Down Cultural Barriers,’ starting with an interactive workshop on eliminating previously held stereotypes, hosted by Dr. Ivanova. The participants were given the opportunity to discuss commonly held beliefs and stereotypes about other cultures as well as their own.

In the evening Dr. Sergei Nikitin hosted an interactive discussion on expanding businesses to Russia. The speech was given in Russian, along with an English translation. The speech discussed the enthusiasm of Russian businesses to invest in Germany, providing a valuable perspective to participants interested in the business sector of international relations.

Friday April 16th, 2010: The last day of the conference looked at Russia’s European neighbours and its possibilities of future integration. This began with Dr. Guz-Vetter delivering a speech on the EU neighbourhood policy and its future direction. The speech echoed a main theme of the conference, which is how to integrate the neighbouring states of the European Union, including Russia’s future as a neighbour of the European Union. The participants weighed in their feelings about Russia becoming more incorporated in European policy making.

For the final event of the forum, the participants visited the German Foreign Office to explore its role in Foreign Affairs and in the German-Russian relationship.  It was an informative and relevant conclusion to this exciting conference.