5 August 2005
Ilya Nikiforov's, managing partner of Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasiyev & Partners, comment in "The St. Petersburg Times"

The St. Petersburg Times

Mock WTO Case Tests Students

By Olga Kalashnikova

Special to The St. Petersburg Times

Law students from 14 European countries are in St. Petersburg to take part in the annual meeting of the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA) that convened Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

“This is the first ELSA meeting organized in Russia and opens the new era of ELSA in Russia,” Oksana Bebko, president of ELSA St. Petersburg and the organizer of the meeting, said Thursday.

ELSA is the world’s largest independent, non-political and non-profit law student association with more than 25,000 members — students and recent graduates who are interested in law and have demonstrated commitment to international issues.

ELSA operates through local groups in more than 200 universities in 37 European countries.

The International President’s Meeting is held to discuss topical issues related to the further development of the association, its expansion and different issues concerning sponsorship.

A significant part of the gathering for Russian students is the ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law, which is to be held for the forth time in the 2005–2006 academic year.

“We took part in the Final Oral Round in the Competition in Geneva in 2003-2004 and our team was one of the most successful,” Alexei Morozov, a member of the team, said Thursday.

The competition is based on a mock trial between complainant and respondent in a case between fictional World Trade Organization Member States. Law students plead for complainant and respondent and try to convince judges the other WTO Member State has violated the rules of the organization.

“This competition teaches law students to defend the trade interests of their country before the WTO Appellate Body. This is especially important for Russian law students since Russia aims to join the WTO,” Leo Vojcik ELSA, vice president, Academic Activities, said Thursday.

Russia has been in negotiations to join the global trade regulating body since 1995. Four issues have become sticking points: access to the goods, agricultural issues, access of foreign service suppliers to the Russian market and differences in Russian and WTO legislation. But despite a decade of talks, no date for Russia’s entry to the WTO has been set.

“There are no specialists on WTO Law in Russia, so it’ll be a serious problem when Russia becomes WTO member. ELSA helps a lot in the preparation and in teaching the rules of the WTO,” Maria Mognilnaya, ELSA’s U.K. director for seminars and conferences, said.

ELSA workshops are being held at the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg State University, and trips to Peterhof and the State Hermitage Museum have been organized for international delegates.

“This side of the meeting is also important. If you have a problem, it’s always better to call somebody you know. You’re lucky when you have a chance to get international contacts, to get in touch with different cultures,” Ilya Nikiforov, managing partner of Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasiyev & Partners and adjunct professor of the Law Faculty of the St. Petersburg State University, said on Thursday.