Europe in the Crossroads: Risks and Prospects

2 June 2017 RT TV hosted a debate "Europe in the Crossroads: Risks and Prospects" as part of the SPIEF 2017. The event was attended by the director of the Center for Eurasian Studies and IIASA research assistant Jurij Kofner.

The European Union is going through tough times. The anaemic recovery from the 2008 financial crisis has combined with new challenges – including Brexit, the migration crisis, and a chilling in relations with Russia – to test the very fabric of the European Union body politic. Do Europe’s leaders have the vision and political mandate to manage these systemic challenges? How should business and investors navigate the fault lines in the EU?

The participants of the discussion were:  Moderator: Peter Lаvelle, Anchor, RT. Panellists: Emmanuel Babeau, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Electric; Markus Beyrer, General Director, BusinessEurope; Yaroslav Lissovolik, Chief Economist, Member of the Management Board, Eurasian Development Bank (EDB); Gerard Mestrallet, Chairman of the Board of Directors, ENGIE Group; Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary; Jean-Pierre Thomas, President, Thomas Vendome Investment; Front row participants: Jim Rogers, Chairman, Beeland Interests Inc; Liv Monica Stubholt, Chairman of the Board, Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce; Partner, Law Firm Selmer.

Key conclusions

  • Europe has recovered from shock after Brexit

“<...> Brexit was really the crossroads, <...> it was seen as the starting point of the dismounting of Europe, the deconstruction of Europe <...> And today we can have a more optimistic vision,” said Gerard Mestrallet, Chairman of the Board of Directors, ENGIE Group.

“<...> it would not make Europe stronger, it is not good for Great Britain <...> I think Brexit is the most stupid decision in a decade,” said Markus Beyrer, General Director, BusinessEurope.

  • Europe “sighed with relief” after Emmanuel Macron’s victory

“We had signs <...> that populists are rising  <...> but something happened, exactly the opposite of what had been anticipated”, said Gerard Mestrallet.

“This is a pro-European vote. This is the vote for the one who is willing to change the country,” said Markus Beyrer.

  • Europe pegs its hopes to France’s President and collaboration with Germany

“We have an internal new couple: France – Germany <...> We have a new opportunity – a new president. They will lead Europe to internal reforms,” said Jean-Pierre Thomas, President, Thomas Vendome Investment.

“This is a new leadership, <...> the collaboration of France and Germany can lead to the new level,” said Emmanuel Babeau, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Schneider Electric.

Challenges

  • European Union’s seclusion from Russia: sanctions interfere with a dialogue

“Ukraine’s government does not do anything in terms of regionalisation and federalisation. But we put the pressure on one side and intensify sanctions against Russia. These are neither Russia’s, not EU’s interests,” said Jean-Pierre Thomas.

  • Instead of searching for a compromise, the EU puts countries with a different vision under pressure

“When we start saying that we need a more pragmatic collaboration of EU and Russia, they will at once say, pro-Putin, pro-Russian, etc. And you have to choose, you are either for Putin, or for Trump.  I am for Hungary! The decisions we make in Hungary are our national interests. Not Russian, not American,” said Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.

Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.

Solutions

  • The EU government needs to be able to hear nations and people

“Macron said when he became president that Europe needs to reconnect with its peoples <...> If we have an agreement between what people, and Brussels want then success can be achieved,” said Liv Monica Stubholt, Chairman of the Board, Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce; Partner, Law Firm Selmer.

  • Abandoning Brussels: a way to resolve EU issues?

“Maybe we can abolish Brussels? <...> Then we can keep a common market without a bunch of bureaucrats,” said Jim Rogers, Chairman, Beeland Interests Inc.

“When Brussels takes an foreign policy issue, security they have not fully managed it in a good way. <...> If they do not manage them, they should give them back to the member states,” said Liv Monica Stubholt, Chairman of the Board, Norwegian-Russian Chamber of Commerce; Partner, Law Firm Selmer.

  • EU needs full-scale collaboration with Russia and removal of sanctions

 “<...> We have to clear the political issues we have about Ukraine, about these silly sanctions. And we have to do it with the new deal in Europe, with Macron, new president, our partner – Germany <...> We have to clear the Normandy format or Minsk agreement, it is the same. We are in a silly situation. The Ukrainian government does not do anything to apply the federalisation reform they voted for. We push sanctions only on one side, Russia, and increase sanctions day after day, year after year. Where will we be? We will build a new wall on the European continent,” said Jean-Pierre Thomas.

“These sanctions are something we should get rid of, we need to define an element or event that could trigger it. <...> Certainly there should be discussion between Europe and Russia: what should be the event that would allow both parties to communicate: “okay, we come to an end of sanctions”,” said Emmanuel Babeau.

CES

Base on material provided by http://tass.ru/.

Slavenko Terzic, Ambassador of Serbia to the Russian Federation.

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