Michail Wladimiroff and Ruth A. van der Pol*
Legal practice in the Netherlands has similarities with Russia, but there are also differences. In a global society, maintaining the individual character of a national legal system is important, whilst also taking note of international developments. This article announces the establishment of a new legal association for Dutch and Russian lawyers (and law students) which offers a platform for acquaintance with each other’s legal system and international cooperation.
Although relations between Russia and the Netherlands developed positively after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the relationship between the two countries could be improved. Russia’s relationship with the Netherlands is not from today or yesterday, but dates back to at least the 16th century. One of the first highlights in that relationship was the arrival of Tsar Peter the Great to Holland in 1697. As well known, Peter spent a short amount of time in a town nearby Amsterdam called Zaandam, where he qualified in shipbuilding at a shipyard. Just as one can still admire a wooden “Peter the Great house” in St. Petersburg, a wooden “Peter the Great house” still stands in Zaandam today. Since Peter the Great’s stay in Holland, more relationships with the Netherlands have emerged. Initially it only concerned commercial relationships, but later, after the foundation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, dynastic relationships also existed. The Dutch King Willem II married Anna Pavlovna, a sister of the Russian tsar, and the next King, Willem III, was also connected to the Russian tsar family through his wife Sophia van Württemberg. Sophia was a daughter of Catharina Pavlovna, the sister of Anna Pavlovna, her mother-in-law.
Legal relationships developed at the end of the 19th century. At the initiative of Tsar Nikolas II, an international Peace Conference took place in 1899 in The Hague. The meetings were held in the Huis ten Bosch that the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina had made available to the international delegations. A Second Peace Conference in The Hague followed in 1907. The conferences were groundbreaking, because since these conferences international law, encompassing war law and humanitarian law, is applicable during armed conflicts. For example, the important Land War Regulations of 1907 emerged from the peace conferences in The Hague. On the initiative of St. Petersburg professor Fyodor Fyodorovich Martens, the chairman of the Russian delegation to the peace conferences, the rich American Carnegie was found willing to finance the construction of the Peace Palace in The Hague, today the seat of prestigious international courts. In the last century more legal relations between Russia and the Netherlands developed. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Dutch lawyers, such as the Leiden professor F.LJ.M. Feldbrugge and the vice-president of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands W. Snijders, helped to write the new Civil Code of the Russian Federation in the nineties. The legal relations between Russia and the Netherlands have therefore been around for a long time and offer a basis to build on.
For some time now, a number of Dutch lawyers at the initiative of the St. Petersburg legal institute named after Prince P.G. Oldenburgsky and with the support of the Dutch Consulate General in St. Petersburg, in collaboration with Russian lawyers in North-West Russia, have been actively giving lectures for young Russian lawyers. The lectures were initially attended by young lawyers and law students, but gradually the meetings were being attended by others: not only practicing lawyers, but also academics. In addition to lectures, nowadays workshops are also given, as well as training sessions and seminars. In the meantime, moot courts are being held for pupils and students. The initially small group of Russian and Dutch lawyers has grown over time to become a dozen enthusiastic teachers who organize meetings in varying compositions from time to time. From this group the initiative has been created to set up an association in which Russian and Dutch lawyers can get to know each other and where possible work together.
The Dutch-Russian Law Association
The association – abbreviated as DRLA – was created as a non-governmental organization on October 23, 2018. The association is established under Dutch law and is based in The Hague. Due to a notarial establishment the DRLA has legal personality under Dutch law. The founding meeting of the new association took place on November 5 in the Peace Palace in The Hague. Speeches were given and in addition a small conference was held in the presence of prominent lawyers from Russia and the Netherlands with lectures from the former president of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands G.J.M. Corstens and the Dean of the Law Faculty of the State University of St. Petersburg, S.A. Belov. Unfortunately, one invited speaker, Y.B. Zholobov, director of the northwestern division of the Russian State University of Justice and deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg division of the Russian Union of Judges, was not present due to family circumstances.
The aim of the DRLA is of course to represent the views of its members, but above all to promote fair administration of justice, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights in the Netherlands and Russia. The association strives to achieve this goal, among other things, by promoting cooperation between Russian and Dutch lawyers and law students, publications, meetings, seminars, lectures and internships. Membership in the association is open to legal practitioners and those working in a legal position at or in connection with a court or university or legal institution in Russia or the Netherlands. Not only individual lawyers, but also law students can become a member, as well as organizations of lawyers and/or law students.
During the formation of the first board, care was taken that the board members had ties with both countries. The first board consists of three lawyers: The chairman is Maxim Ferschtman, born in Moscow but after his immigration to the Netherlands nowadays a judge in the District Court at Utrecht. The secretary is Ekatarina Nikonova, born in Yakutsk, lawyer and assistant professor in St. Petersburg, but since she has married a Dutchman living in The Hague. Treasurer is Maria Voskobitova, born in Magadan, nowadays living in The Hague. In addition to the board, an Advisory Board will be formed, whose members will be appointed by the general meeting. The first meeting of members is expected to be held in the first half of 2019.
Although the members of the association generally speak Russian and/or Dutch, the official language in the association is English. The DRLA is a platform for all jurisdictions. The association offers Russian (prospective) lawyers the opportunity to find out more about the law and its practice in the Netherlands. Getting to know Dutch colleagues and the way in which law is practiced in the Netherlands leads to a better understanding of each other and can lead to professional cooperation. More generally, the association offers the opportunity to become acquainted with the international aspects of law. Moreover, the association may offer a number of members the opportunity to participate in educational meetings in the Netherlands. Russian lawyers who are interested in the Dutch Russian Law Association can register as a member with the secretary of the board via the e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Thérèse Schwartzestraat 159, 2597XK The Hague, the Netherlands. After registration you will receive a confirmation of membership by e-mail or regular mail. The membership fee for Russian lawyers for 2019 is set at € 50 per year and € 15 per year for law students.
* M. Wladimiroff is a retired international lawyer at The Hague and R.A. van der Pol is a judge of the National Trade Chamber of the Courts of Appeal in the Netherlands. They are the founders of the Dutch Russian Law Association.