Why we need to build a Greater Europe

_ Evgeny Ilyin, PhD student MGIMO University of the MFA of Russia. Report at the international conference “Greater Europe. Towards a common space from Lisbon to Vladivostok”, MGIMO, Moscow, December 19th 2015.

First of all we have to determine, what does the Greater Europe means. We need to avoid not constructive declarations and fill the term “Greater Europe” with concrete content.

What is Greater Europe? It is a territory, which includes all European states and the states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). It is a common market from Lisbon to Vladivostok, where there are no barriers, where common and clear rules are supreme.

Greater Europe is a territory of freedom of movement, where you can take a train in Kazan and get out of the train in Paris without any passport controls. It is where you can have a Russian diploma and continue to work and to learn in other European country. Greater Europe is a space of free human interaction in all spheres.

This is an idyllic picture and a distant perspective, but the difficulty of this goal is not a reason not to try to reach it. It is worthwhile because it gives some obvious advantages to Russia, Eurasia and the European states.


The first advantage is security. The EU was born as an answer to the horrible consequences of the Second World War. One must admit, that despite all of her inadequacies the EU is a system where bloody conflicts between member-states are impossible – the goal to build such system was achieved in the EU.

If we imagine the common security space of the EU and the EAEU, we will see to understand that territorial disputes of Transnistria, Donbas, Crimea, Abkhazia, South Osetia and Nagorny Karabakh must be solved within in. Aspiration for forming a common security space will stimulate European and Eurasian leaders to influence the conflicting sides for achieving peace in a long-term perspective. It is important to underline that the same problems existed for a long time as well in the then would-be European Union. e.g. Elsas-Lotharingia,  Northern Ireland, Gibraltar and other regions. With in the European framework a compromise was found. If it is possible to solve such long standing problems in the EU, we have ground to hope that inside a Greater Europe common security space peacefull settlement is also achievable.

The EU and the EAEU have many common threats, which they need to counter-act together: terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking, trade with weapons and people. If the EU and the EAEU will consolidate against these challenges,  security across region will increase considerably.


The second is economy. The countries of the EU and EAEU are economically interdependent. On one side, Russia gets 3\4 of direct investments, technologies and high-tech from Europe.  On the other, Russian energy carriers irreplaceabe for the EU’s economic developement. Russia is interested in access simplification for foreign investors. Euro-Eurasian investment liberalization gives a chance to modernize Russia’s economy faster, increases the efficacy of logistic routs, the productivity of labour and increases economic growth in general. European business has a strong interest in securing a stable Russian market, the largest in Eurasia after China. Transparent and free economic relations across the region of a Greater Europe will stimulate economic growth for all participants.


The third is the settlement of integration competition and a mutually beneficial neighborhood of the EU and the EAEU. In such a scenario post-Soviet states must not not choose between either Europe and Eurasia – since Greater Europe will be fitting in any case. A common space of freedom, justice, security and prosperity for all. It will be easier to find mutual understanding, because a sense of common history and common destiny will appear. No clashes, only compromise.

Confrontation and competition between the EU and the EAEU is the way of conflicts, stagnation, destabilization, growing problems. It is a zero-sum game and benefits only outer-regional powers. It is artificial.

Cooperation and integration between the EU and the EAEU is the way of compromise, common security, mutual understanding and economic growth. It is a win-win situation. It is natural.

However, to go along this path we first need to rethink our relations with each other and to place trust at the center.

Contintetalism, eurocentrism or transatlanticism?

Thus there are obvious pragmatic grounds to build a Greater Europe. However, there is a principal divergance in the views of Moscow and Brussels.

Russian president Vladimir Putin emphasized in 2011, that the EAEU is, in general, an integration project similar to that of the EU, and that it complements the EU. Eurasian economic integration is influenced by the European experience and formed in accordance with European standards and rules of the WTO. Putin, Medvedev and Lavrov noted many times that the EAEU is not a competitor, but an equal partner to the EU. The Russian position of continentalism is clear – the two projects have to work together on an equal, respectful  and mutually beneficial basis and step-by-step “integrate the integrations” into a Greater Europe.

In Brussels things are more complicated, where there exist two different views on the place of the EU in the world and her Eastern policy. The first position more contintentalist yet still very Eurocentric. Such a position is typical for France, Germany, Italy, Greece and Finland. They would like to see Europa as an independent center of power, prefering principals of pragmatism and mutual profit in relations with Russia.

The second – Transatlanic – is typical for Great Britain, Poland, Sweden, Romania and the Baltic states, who activly welcome the US-American and NATO hegemony in Europe, and support aggressive EU-enlargement (“expansion of democracy”) to the East. Those Euroatlantists believe that the Brussels should not recognize the Eurasian Economic Union, offering such recognition as an instrument of pressure on Moscow.

In this regard Russia and her Eurasian partners should work out a flexible approach to her Western partners in order carry out dialogue with European leaders, succeptable to more equal, continentalist, views. Cooperation between the EU and EAEU should be targeted on all level, vertical and and horizontal, from top to interpersonal. A deepening of economic interaction is very important in this respect, since business is not so politicized and is aimed at mutually beneficial relations. Promotion of the Eurasian integration project is now a priority – if it will be successful, sooner or later in will be recognized by the whole world. And if we succeed in settling interregional neighbourhood disputes the  the project of a Greater Europe will get a chance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *