Cooperation Between St. Petersburg and France

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ECONOMIC COOPERATION International Trade Trade between St. Petersburg and France dropped in the wake of the 1998 financial crisis in Russia. The year 1998 saw a decrease of 11.6% from 1997. In 1999, the trade turnover between St. Petersburg and France declined a further 21% from 1998. However, only imports from France dropped in 1999; exports actually increased 39% compared to 1998. Despite a slight drop in exports (2% from 1999) in 2000, the mutual trade turnover rose 15% that year due to a 21% increase in imports. In 2000, imports from France accounted for 78% of St. Petersburgs total trade with that nation. France was, in 2000, the 7th largest exporter to St. Petersburg, but only the 18th largest importer from the city. Investment France is not one of the leading investors in St. Petersburg in hard-currency terms. As of early 2001, France had invested a mere US $19.8 million in the city. For the sake of comparison, Finland had invested US $219 million. However, France was the second largest investor in Ruble value in 2000 (preceded only by Finland) with Rbl 56 million invested in the city (16.2% of total Ruble investment in St. Petersburg). Notably, the bulk of Frances Ruble investments in St. Petersburg were made directly. There are 39 Russian-French joint ventures in St. Petersburg, or 2.2% of all active St. Petersburg companies co-owned by foreign entities. Most of Russian-French joint ventures are doing business in perfumes, makeup, clothing, pharmaceuticals, food, and so on. Russian-French manufacturing companies include SpbVergaz (construction and rehabilitation of gas pipelines and heating plants), Pure Water for St. Petersburg (pipeline diagnostics, water treatment, construction of waste treatment facilities), Petroteknip (engineering and construction), and some others. Some of Frances industry flagships, such as Bulle (banking systems, system integration), Alcatel (manufacture of telephone circuit boards), Schneider Electric (electrical equipment), to name a few, are also represented in St. Petersburg. Of particular note is Frances investment in St. Petersburgs banking sector. The French banks Credit Lyonnais and Bank Nacional de Paris have both opened their offices in St. Petersburg. The former if fully French-owned; the latter is co-owned in equal shares with Germanys Dresdner Bank. In April 1997, St. Petersburg City Hall signed a cooperation agreement with Gas de France wherein the parties stated their intent to cooperate along the following lines:

  • shift of St. Petersburgs public transportation from gasoline and electricity to natural gas;
  • energy conservation through reconstruction of the citys heating plants;
  • a series of projects to provide steady natural gas supply to the suburbs of St. Petersburg. The parties further agreed that Russias LENGAZ and the Russian-French joint venture SPbVERGAZ ZAO would contribute to the design and implementation of the gas pipeline projects. Detailed proposals in each of the above fields have been drafted, and are currently in action. In November 2000, Frances Lesaffre launched Russias first yeast and baking enhancer packing factory Saf-Neva in St. Petersburg. The factory is housed in a formerly vacant production facility with 7,000 square meters of floor space, that had cost the French company US $3.5 million to renovate. The factory has an output capacity of up to 40 tons of yeast and 25 tons of baking enhancers monthly. In December 2000, Frances Le Group Souffle and the St. Petersburg-based Baltika Brewery launched their US $50 million malting factory in St. Petersburg. The French company covered 70% of the project costs; Baltika invested the balance of 30%. The project is expected to pay back in 7 to 10 years. Like in the previous years, St. Petersburg has attended the annual international investment forum, MIPIM-2001, in Cannes, France, this year. St. Petersburgs display featured an array of investment projects in construction and property development, which were all highly acclaimed by French press. Between April 1 and 8, 2001, a delegation of St. Petersburg business people visited Paris. The trip was co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce & Industry of St. Petersburg and the Chamber of Commerce of Paris. The delegation consisted of 15 St. Petersburg company CEOs representing such prominent St. Petersburg manufacturers as Svetlana OAO, Lenpoligrafmash OAO, Mechanical Repairs Factory AOOT, and some others. St. Petersburg businessmen discussed cooperation opportunities in the manufacture of electronics, plastics, and other products, with their French counterparts. The French side expressed an interest in St. Petersburg-made medical equipment, while the Russians invited French offers of hydraulic machinery, trade fair equipment, womens clothing, and other product groups. In April 2001, the St. Petersburg-based Pulkovo Airlines opened a representative office in Paris. Between June 5 and 8, 2001, St. Petersburgs Mikhailovsky Manege hosted an exhibit of French trade and industry titled France Today, which showcased some of Frances leading players in the timber, consumer and food industries, as well as transportation, telecommunications and travel. Loans In 1994, the French government gave the Russian government an investment loan to purchase equipment for rehabilitating and upgrading St. Petersburgs water supply and sewerage systems. The US $32.4 million loan disbursed to St. Petersburg Vodokanal (water company) and City Hall covered 85% of the costs of the work required. So far, phase one of the waste treatment plant has been completed, which includes two sludge incinerators. All impor-ted equipment for the plant has already been supplied. Technological Assistance Programs French companies have been very active cooperating with their Russian counterparts under the European Unions TACIS program. Here are some examples: 1. Upgrade of St. Petersburgs Municipal Natural Gas System. The project, worth US $2.4 million, was carried out by Gas de France in conjunction with its Russian partner Lengaz. As part of this project, the French company developed a feasibility study for rehabilitating natural gas systems in the citys historical downtown. 2. Electricity Rates; Account Management; Business Information System. The project, worth US $600,000.00, was carried out by Electricite de France in conjunction with its Russian partner Lenenergo. 3. Development of Railway Corridor 9A. Carried out in Moscow and St. Petersburg by Frances Sofreraille, the 2-million-dollar project was aimed at improving railway infrastructure, making Russias railway sign-posting system identical to that of Europe, and improving transportation efficiency overall (including passenger and cargo flow estimates). 4. Restructuring of College Education in Consumer Industry. The project, worth US $800,000.00, was coordinated by the National Higher School of Arts and the Textile Industry of France in conjunction with its Russian partner, St. Petersburg State University of Technology and Design. International Cooperation St. Petersburgs Partner Cities in France Specialist Training The Russian-French Center for Administrative and Economic Training and Retraining was established on the premises of St. Petersburg State University of Economics and Finance in 1992. One of the Centers tasks is too coordinate the specialist training and retraining effort. Training is administered in collaboration with St. Petersburg City Hall, French and Russian universities and colleges, and St. Petersburg-based industrial companies. There is a library at the Center comprising more than 1,000 book titles in French and equipped with visual systems. The library is open to all St. Petersburg college students. The credit for the idea of a French University College goes to the late Russian academician and dissident Andrey D. Sakharov and the French writer Marek Halter. The College was established as part of St. Petersburg State University in 1992. All subjects at the French University College are taught in French and Russian. All French subjects are taught by professors from Paris. Cultural Cooperation Cultural cooperation between Russia and France goes back a long way. Most of St. Petersburgs major museums, libraries and theaters, including the Hermitage, the Russian National Library, the Pavlovsk Museum, and many others, have ties with France. The French Institute plays a very prominent part in St. Petersburgs cultural life, frequently hosting various events familiarizing St. Petersburgers with French lifestyle, language and art. There is another French cultural mission in St. Petersburg, named Alliance Francaise, a not-for-profit organization open to everyone who is interested in France, its culture and language. Director of the State Hermitage Mikhail B. Piotrovsky, is President of Alliance Francaise. In summer 1997, St. Petersburg was visited by a delegation of Le Committee des Champs Elysees led by its President, Count Pozzo di Borgot. The delegation signed a cooperation agreement with the Nevsky Prospect Association. A not-for-profit NGO named St. Petersburg 300 has recently been established in Paris on a private initiative. Its Board of Trustees comprises the following prominent individuals: Rene Andre, head of the French parliamentary commission on Russian-French cooperation; Jeffrey Hoskin, Professor of the London-based Center for East European Studies; Bernard Leconte, President of the French-Russian Association of Journalists; George Polinsky, Chairman of the Board of Europa Plus radio station and International Trade Advisor to the French Government; Roland Pozzo di Borgot, President of Le Committee des Champs Elysees; Duchess Tatiana Vasilchikova-Metternich; Vsevolod Bogdanov, Chairman of the Union of Journalists of Russia; Mikhail Boyarsky, a theater and film actor; Liudmila Verbitskaya, President of St. Petersburg State University; Vladimir Gusev, Director of the Russian Museum; and Ilya Yu-zhanov, Russian Minister for Antimonopoly Policy and Enterprise Support. St. Petersburg City Hall has joined forces with the French Consulate General in St. Petersburg to develop a draft comprehensive cooperation program for St. Petersburg and France from 2000 through 2003. Spanning three years, the program is broken up into the following theme sections: economics, culture, to-urism, education, environmental protection, and cooperation between partner cities. The program will culminate in a joint celebration of St. Petersburgs 300th anniversary in 2003. The current Consul General of France in St. Petersburg is the Honorable Alexander N. Kelchevsky. France in St. Petersburg France first came to St. Petersburg during Peter the Greats reign in the early 18th century, when the French architect Leblond drew up one of the citys first construction plans. Many French artists worked in St. Petersburg throughout the 18th century, adorning the citys numerous palaces and mansions with their artwork. However, French influence became particularly pronounced in the early 19th century, during Napoleons wars in Europe. A lot of French artists, architects, engineers and au pairs came to St. Petersburg around that time. The great French wr iters and philosophers Diderot, Balsaque, Dumas, and others visited St. Petersburg. The French army general Maureau is buried in the vault of St. Catherine Church on Nevsky Prospect. In the Russian Emperor Alexander Is invitation, Maureau had fought on the Russian side in the 1812 French-Russian war. In 1903, to mark the citys 200th anniversary, the French company Batignolle built the Trinity Bridge across the Neva, which is a spitting image of the Alexander III bridge in Paris. At the turn of the 20th century, Russia began, so to say, paying back its cultural debts to France. In the early 20th century, Serguei Diaghilev staged his Russian Seasons in Paris, bringing classical Russian ballet, as well as Russian art and music, to Europe for the first time. Older St. Petersburgers still remember a succession of French presidential visits to the city, and port calls on the Neva by nume-rous French warships, which had preceded a rapprochement christened Cordial Accord between France and Russia on the eve of WWI, which saw French and Russian soldiers fighting together. A cordial bond also developed between Leningrad and General De Gaulle, who had always thought highly of the fortitude of Leningrad residents du-ring the Russian part of WWII. For their part, Leningraders always admired General De Gaulles effort in liberating France during WWII and bringing it back from ruin after the war. The French Consulate General in St. Petersburg has made a valuable contribution towards better ties between St. Petersburg and France. France is expected to play a significant role in St. Petersburgs celebration of its tercentennial in 2003. Yet another link between St. Petersburg and France has been fashioned by the descendants of those St. Petersburgers who had to emigrate to France in the wake of the 1917 Bolshevik Re-volution, as well as our compatriots currently residing in France. Last but not least, there is a French church in St. Petersburg. Further Cooperation Plans
  • In 2003, a mobile bilingual exhibit devoted to the ties between St. Petersburg and France, forged over the past three centuries, will go on display in Moscow and Paris. The exhibit will emphasize photographic material and possibly late 19th century documentary footage;
  • A conference on the political, economic and cultural relations between France and Russia to be held in St. Petersburg and France;
  • France Today, a French trade and industry exhibit brin-ging together top French companies, to go on display in 2003;
  • Special lighting fixtures to be installed on the Trinity Bridge; and a series of evening music concerts to be held in Palace Square immediately before July 14, Frances national holiday, in 2003;
  • Establishment of an Enligh-tenment Studies Center (also known as the Voltaire Foundation Project) on the premises of the Voltaire Section of the Russian National Library (the project has received the backing of the French Foreign Ministry);
  • St. Petersburg is 300, an exhibit in French, to go on display in the French partner cities of St. Petersburg;
  • Publication of the Frenchmen in Russia encyclopedia. Vo-lume I dedicated to the 18th century is scheduled to come out in print in early 2002. Volume II will be devoted to French immigrants; Volume III, to Frenchmen who lived in Russia from the 19th century and until 1917;
  • France in St. Petersburg, a city guide based on a database (currently in the making) of French nationals living in St. Petersburg;
  • French hotel management companies to be invited to manage hotels in St. Petersburg. Specifically, Frances Accor may take part in building a new 220-room hotel at 22 Moika Canal, to be subsequently managed under the Novotel auspices;
  • The attention of Frances business community to be drawn to St. Petersburgs construction and property development investment opportunities showcased by the city annually (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001) at the MIPIM forum for real estate professionals in Cannes, including a series of presentations in Paris;
  • Backing to be given to the initiative, launched by St. Petersburg businessmen, to open a St. Petersburg business mission in Paris modeled on a similar Business Contacts Center in Kotka, Finland, which has been highly successful. St. Petersburgs business representation in Paris will feature a permanent city exhibit, and will be holding regular seminars on bilateral cooperation priorities. The information was provided by the Press Center of the International Relations Committee of St. Petersburg City Hall

    : 12.11.2001
    Vladimir Artemiev, Vadim Simonovsky
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