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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Europe's Bulwark for Business

Jump in, the water's fine! This is the message that Frank Schauff, the newly appointed head of The Association of European Businesses in the Russian Federation, wants to send potential investors.

The AEB, established in 1995, seeks to provide a support network for members of the European Union and the European Free Trade Association with business interests in Russia. As the association's CEO, Schauff, 39, hopes to improve business conditions for foreign investors by helping them cope with some of the bureaucratic challenges of conducting business in Russia.

Schauff's interest in Russian culture began to develop when he was still a student at the University of Cologne. While at university in 1991, Schauff took the opportunity to travel to Russia and study at Volgograd State University. He witnessed firsthand the changing ethos that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"I think that speaking with Russian students at the University of Volgograd allowed me to delve deep into the mentality of this country," Schauff said. He added that his study abroad and extensive travel through Russia and Central Asia were among his most formative experiences.

Since his days as a student in Volgograd, Schauff has earned a master's degree from the London School of Economics and a doctorate in East European history from the University of Cologne. He has worked as a lecturer at the Free University in Berlin and advised the Social Democratic Party of Germany on foreign policy. Aside from his native German, Schauff speaks Russian and English fluently, and is conversational in French, Italian, Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian.

"I think that Frank Schauff's excellent analytical skills and his communicative personality make him the appropriate person to lead the AEB," said Hans-Joachim Spanger, deputy director of the Peace Research Institute of Frankfurt. Spanger and Schauff worked together to advise the German government on its foreign policy toward Russia.

Lobbying is a large component of the AEB's work, and Schauff's experience as a political adviser has allowed him to gain insight into Russian government.

"I think that a knowledge of Russia's political landscape prepared me for this position," Schauff said. "As an adviser to the Social Democratic Party of Germany, I became familiar with the political processes in Russia and now I can be more active in addressing the concerns of foreign businesses here."

Schauff hopes his leadership of the AEB will help increase the communication between the Russian and the European business communities.

Vladimir FIilonov / MT
As an adviser to the Social Democratic Party of Germany, Schauff became familiar with the political processes in Russia.
"The numbers speak for themselves," he said. "The accumulated foreign investments from the EU represented 75.7 percent of the total foreign investment in September 2006 with a total of $98.4 billion invested by the major EU investors in the Russian economy. The five first countries to invest in the Russian economy are EU counties, Cyprus, Netherlands, Luxemburg, U.K., and Germany. The United States and Japan rank in at 6th and 10th."

More than 550 companies are part of the AEB, and with much of the foreign investment coming from European countries, Schauff considers the AEB a vital resource for European businesses.

Assessing the conditions for foreign business in Russia, he said much had improved over the last eight years. "Things have gotten much easier for businesses in Russia. There is greater security and political stability. Investors are very happy here."

Schauff joked that the best piece of advice he can offer potential investors is: "Don't read the papers!"

"I think that Western media coverage of Russia sometimes offers an incomplete picture of the situation here," he said. "Looking from outside Russia and from within offers two different perspectives. Those who are here are happy to be here. Our figures for investment speak of no big problems with doing business in Russia and in general things are moving in the right direction."