The Conference on Developing Cooperation ‘from Lisbon to Vladivostok’ was held on the eve of the 21st St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. The conference featured three sessions devoted to relations between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union and ways to solve problems that arise in such interaction.
During the first session ‘Creating a Common Economic Space. Challenges and Solutions’, Ulf Schneider, the moderator of the discussion, a managing partner at Schneider Group, and co-chairman of the working group on the creation of the joint economic space, noted: “With the strategy that we have developed for small but concrete steps and targeted cooperation, we can achieve a lot, for instance, in matters concerning standards and certification. Specifically, it is important to simplify the certification process and harmonize existing standards. EU and EAEU standards are already much more compatible than we assume. In the EAEU, 85% of electrical engineering standards, 80% of electronics standards, 40% of metrological standards, and 70% of oil and gas production and refining as well as related production meet international and European standards”.
Alan Thompson, Director of the International Financial Integration Department of the International Investment Bank, said during the session: “Multilateral development banks such as the Eurasian Development Bank and the International Investment Bank are primarily integrators of the economic space that government shareholders cover by anticipating, stimulating, and financing the next stage of economic development. But without action and a desire from business to develop, there can be no talk about the maturation of the financial system (environment) in this space”.
Seven speakers spoke at the session, including Russian Deputy Minister of Transport Sergey Aristov, Representative of the Latvian Ministry of Transport Uldis Reimanis, Eurasia Global Connecting GmbH Managing Director Gerd Slapke, and Director of the International Financial Integration Department of the International Investment Bank Alan Thompson. As Head of the Roscongress Foundation’s Project Activities Development Directorate Slava Khodko said later, the first session was devoted to “regulators, common spaces, and questions about what needs to be done”.
Gerd Slapke called on business to influence the development of common standards of technical regulations, and also to influence the European Union at the political level because “Brussels is bad at negotiating with the commissions of the Eurasian Economic Union”. Sergey Aristov pointed out the need for effective work among international organizations to develop common standards, rules, and requirements. He also believes that it is essential to get rid of borders and barriers in order to ensure the cost-effectiveness of transportation. Staffing is another problem, the deputy minister said. “Governments should join efforts to provide transport education to youth”, Aristov said.
During the second session, experts primarily discussed political aspects. Speakers included Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the European Union Vladimir Chizhov, Deputy Director of the First Department of CIS Countries at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Yezhov, Special Representative of the Minister for OSCE Affairs from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs Štefan Füle, and Director General of the Association of European Businesses Frank Schauff.
Vladimir Chizhov noted that during at last year’s SPIEF between Russian President Vladimir Putin and European Commission Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker “a certain understanding was achieved and even expressed even in writing”. But Russia has not yet received a response to the initiative, which aims to preserve the necessary level of mutually beneficial relations between the Russian Federation and the EU.
Participants in the third session ‘Ensuring Prosperity from Lisbon to Vladivostok through Trade and Investment’ included representatives of the business community, specifically chambers of commerce and industry (CCI). The conference was attended by high-ranking representatives of the Russian CCI, the Association of Italian Entrepreneurs, the Association of the CCI of Germany, the Belgian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce, the Russian-British Chamber of Commerce and the CCI of Moscow. Russian CCI Vice President Vladimir Padalko drew attention to the unity of the chambers of commerce around the world. He said that businesses need business councils that provide consultations and lobby their projects.
During the session, Russian CCI Vice-President Vladimir Padalko touched upon the issues of reducing administrative barriers, stimulating trade and investments in the megaregion, and creating a high-quality business environment: “To form a high-quality business environment in the countries that are part of a particular economic integration organization (EAEU, SCO, BRICS), it is essential that the business communities of the countries that have joined these movements and those that wish to join the megaregion begin searching for specific projects. This will clearly demonstrate the viability and effectiveness of this form of cooperation”.
In addition, Vladimir Padalko noted that “joint work with colleagues from the EEC will facilitate the final formation of the EAEU. This will be a real contribution to the implementation of a highly promising idea to establish a common economic macro platform. Having resolved the problems internally, we will be able to take the next step and gradually move on to a discussion of specific forms as part of the project from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.
Head of the Moscow-based German-Russian Chamber of Commerce Matthias Schepp spoke about a survey he and his colleagues conducted among 800 businessmen from Russia, Germany, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. He said 70% of the respondents already see clear benefits in the actions of the EAEU, whereas two years ago only 20% of the respondents gave a similar answer. A quarter of them see benefits from easing customs and control. A total of 24% believe that the market has expanded due to the actions of the EAEU. Another 11% were certain that logistics costs would decrease.
Head of the Moscow-based German-Russian Chamber of Commerce Matthias Schepp and representative of the Italian business community in Russia GIM-Unimpresa Maria Luisa Barona, jointly with the Roscongress Foundation, signed a memorandum on cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union at the conference. This document had been previously signed by the Schneider Group, Banca Intesa and Thomas Vendome Investment.