_ Valdai Club. Sochi, 26 October 2016.
During the special session of the Annual Meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club of 2016, titled “Europe – our failed future?”, the participants discussed a range of issues related to the present and the future of the European Union – the largest inter-state union of the modern world.
The European Union is a unique association based on socio-economic interests and rejection of the factor of force in relations between the member states. Over the past 70 years, Europe has managed to make a significant progress in the social and economic sphere, to increase the total GDP in more than 50 times. The EU was the first project that went beyond nations and states.
Today, the European Union has entered a phase of systemic crisis. What does it mean for Russia and other global players? Is there a way out of this situation?
According to participants, the Brexit is one of the most striking manifestations of the crisis in the European Union. It means not only the loss of the country which generates 20% of the European GDP, but also the erosion of the existing multilevel identity system. As one of the speakers said, decades could pass before the Brits change their European identity. Perhaps the UK choice would be a tragedy for the EU-oriented young generation in that country. Almost all of the speakers were unanimous in that the responsibility for what happened lies on British political leaders whose contradictory behavior and incompetence led to defeat in the campaign to safeguard the UK as part of the United Europe.
Like Britain, Russia is also a country which doubts its European identity. During the discussion, it was proposed to consider the process of Russia’s integration into the European space as curves of Westernization and Europeanization, where the Europeanization means the process of entering into political and economic structures and institutions of Europe, and Westernization is the movement towards convergence with European values. Paradoxically, in the 21th century Russia is a more Westernized than Europeanized country.
The author of the concept currently sees three scenarios for Russia: the first is de-Westernization of the Russian society, the second is the return of Russia to the integration with the European institutions. Both scenarios are unrealistic. The best scenario seems to be the third one: “cold diffusion,” that is, the gradual convergence of Russian and European societies. For the implementation of this option it is important to preserve Russia-EU educational and scientific contacts, to provide the entry into the European regulations (but not institutions), working at the sub-regional and cross-border levels. This is the way that does not promise quick results but preserves the prospects for the development of relations between Russia and the European Union.
The participants also offered a number of conditions for the solution of existing problems. The most important was avoiding the excessive expansion of the military buildup by all key global players. This would decrease the possibility of military conflict to which the modern system of world order is steadily moving. It would be fruitful to move from talking about values to the principles of realpolitik, a policy based purely on pragmatic interests.
As a model for cooperation between Russia and the EU the principles for resolving contradictions between Russia and China in Central Asia could be used. The key principle among them is the recognition of the strategic interests of the partner in the region, advance warning about projects and actions to be taken, their coordination and discussion and a multilateral, rather than a unilateral, approach.
To stabilize the relations within the European Union the participants suggested not only to increase in subsidies for science and education, but also to try to find new solutions for pressing political and economic issues, as currently, offers come only from right-wing populist and protest movements.