How have relations between the European Union and Russia changed during the pandemic? What strategy will the new U.S. presidential administration pursue with respect to Russia? And what would facilitate the good-neighborly contact? The main topic of the panel discussion titled "Greater Europe: Still on the Horizon?" held as part of the second day of the Gaidar Forum 2021 was the discussion of Russia's international contacts with other countries.
The panelists included Markus Ederer, Ambassador of the European Union to the Russian Federation, Igor Yurgens, Chairman of the Board of the Institute of Contemporary Development (ICD) and Board Member of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RUIE), Giles Merritt, Founder and Chairman of Friends of Europe, Alexey Gromyko, Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Thomas Graham, Managing Director of Kissinger Associates, and Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
During the discussion, all participants noted that the pandemic has worsened the already strained relations between Russia and the European Union, but that bilateral relations may normalize in some economic aspects in the nearest future. "Our political connections have lost some of the so-called gloss we used to have. Russia has turned away from the European Union towards Eurasian integration. Now we are witnessing a confrontation rather than cooperation, a segregation of values and further deterioration of relations because of the pandemic," explained Markus Ederer, Ambassador of the European Union to the Russian Federation.
In order to resolve the lingering pause between the two countries, according to Ederer, we need to sit down at the negotiating table and understand what we "really want from each other." Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, agrees with the position of the EU ambassador to Russia. According to him, a serious talk about the relations between the two sides is needed, as we are currently moving "in completely different directions," and it is important that we maintain good-neighborly relations.
"It is necessary to develop good-neighborly relations, there are some obstacles, but it should not become an obstacle for communication between people who live next to each other. The EU and Russia also need to accept diversity and difference, it’s OK that we are different. Russia has a different political system, a different system of values, its own security interests which do not always coincide with those of the EU," Trenin clarified.
In his turn, Alexey Gromyko, Director of the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, added that the so-called "friction" in relations between the EU and Russia had emerged as a result of policies pursued by other states, including the US, China and some countries of the Middle East. According to the speaker, some countries are obsessed with the idea of competition between the major powers, namely the strategic competition.
"Today there are attempts to put barriers between our countries and confrontational movements are encouraged in every possible way, but this is not the direction <...> which we would like to follow. Sooner or later the EU and Russia will return to a strategic partnership. Today it may seem an empty fantasy, but sooner or later we will come back to the partnership or at least to some elements of it," Gromyko clarified.
Thomas Graham, Managing Director of Kissinger Associates, said the new administration of US President Joe Biden would work to restore transatlantic and trade relations with such countries as Russia, but in tandem with the European Union. According to him, America will set a course for "global leadership," but will consider the opinions of European politicians to create a common position on many issues. "Europeans were happy to see Joe Biden as the new U.S. president, and, at the behest of Europe, arms control negotiations will be reopened, an agreement to ban the deployment of medium-range missiles in the European Union will be considered, relations with Russia will be normalized, and there will be a return to the nuclear deal with Russia," Graham said.
Giles Merritt, Chairman of Friends of Europe, concluded the session dedicated to international relations. He noted the need to talk about the widening chasm between Russia and other countries and called on the parties, Russia, USA and the European Union, to do more to put the trilateral relationships on a constructive track and end the confrontation.
The Gaidar Forum “Russia and the World After the Pandemic” will be held on January 14 and 15 at the Presidential Academy. The Forum will traditionally open the annual business agenda of Russia. In 2021, this large-scale event will be held in a hybrid format, both online and offline.
This time, the main discussion track will be social and economic transformations that have occurred in the country and the world as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The expert discussions will be focused on the national and global development goals and the search for practical solutions to the most urgent challenges of today. The Forum’s participants include ministers from the Russian Government, members of the Federal Assembly, governors of the Russian regions, largest world experts, representatives of foreign states.
The general partners of the Gaidar Forum are Gazprom PJSC and Gazprombank JSC.
The strategic partners are Russian Railways OJSC, Johnson&Johnson, ACIG Group, Novartis.
The partner of the forum is MasterCard, Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF)
The discussion partners are Magnit, Pepsi, Huawei, Coca-Cola, AstraZeneca, Takeda, EY.
General media partners: TASS, Business FM, RIA Novosti, RBC. Strategic media partners: Interfax, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Kommersant Publishing House, RIA FederalPress, Invest-Foresight magazine. Main media partners: Anews, News.ru, lenta.ru. International media partners: Russia Today.
Media partners: PRO Business TV channel, AEI PRIME, Polit.ru, Strategy magazine, Public Administration magazine, Ekonomika i Zhizn newspaper, Econs portal, Finam, Bankovskoye Obozreniye magazine, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Snob media project, Echo of Moscow radio station, Nauchno-Obrazovatelnaya Politika Telegram channel.