Young researchers discussed in Vienna the future of EU – EAEU relations

_ Pronina Valeriia, St. Petersburg State University. Vienna, 2 November 2019.

28 October – 1 November Vienna hosted the international youth forum «Greater Europe Meetings», organized by the non-profit NGO «Youth Association  for Greater Europe» in partnership with the international independent think tank «Ambassadors de la Jeunesse» with the support of the Gorchakov Fund, as well as various European organizations: Bouygues, Policy Crossover Center-Vienna, Impact Hub Vienna, Schneider Group, Vicat Group, Austrian Society for European politics, Mitteleuropa initiative, European dialogue expert group, OWC Foreign trade. This year, for the first time the program took place in Austria at the OSCE headquarters and the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw).

This is the 7th time already the forum was organized. The main goal is to establish a fruitful dialogue between representatives of the European Union, the Balkan region and the post-Soviet space.

The significance of such a dialogue was emphasized by the former secretary general of the Council of Europe Dr. Walter Schwimmer at the opening ceremony of the forum. In his opinion, after the end of the “cold war” the “end of history” did not come: humanity has failed to reach agreement, openness and cooperation.  Forgetting about good neighborliness and consensus, modern States put their own interests above the world ones and, thus, trigger numerous conflicts.

Within the context of globalization, digitalization, climate change, political instability international tensions are complemented by internal issues. Today Europe faces unemployment, migrant crisis, Brexit, Renaissance of nationalism and exit parties. Under these circumstances, a pressing need for elaborating new foreign strategy becomes obvious. Formation of an economic, humanitarian and peaceful space from Lisbon to Vladivostok can be one of the possible ways out. It is Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) that should be the main partner of Europe in this direction.

«If we do not dream for a Greater Europe, we will never have a Greater Europe», – concluded the former secretary. Therefore, both European and Eurasian politicians must undertake initial steps towards addressing numerous issues straight away.

The main problem lies with mutual mistrust between Europe and Russia. What are the reasons for alienating? What caused Russia’s turn to the East? This topic was discussed during the panel discussion moderated by executive secretary of the Russian-Austrian Youth Discussion Political club Dmitry Erokhin. Each participant provided his own perspective on the reasons for the standoff. However, all saw eye to eye that the current situation deprives confidence in the sincerity of the partners ‘ actions, and, thus, slows down the process of rapprochement between the sides.

The format of «Greater Europe Meetings» is precisely aimed at developing that mutual trust. Taking part in discussions, debates, workshops, team building activities young people from different countries were able to eliminate misunderstanding and learn about other countries’ foreign policy motives firsthand. “We want warm relations that will be established between the participants during this forum to result in strong, trust-based connections between our countries in the future. We recognize it as the most effective approach,” – said the president of the Association Diana Radjib.

The first four days of “Greater Europe Meetings” were devoted to lectures and workshops to provide the participants with the information required for formulation their own vision of Greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok.

The main message of the experts was as follows: despite clash of geopolitical interests, EU and EAEU have rather ample scope for productive cooperation.

The researcher of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) Elena Rovenskaya told about EU-EAEU economic integration perspectives. The European and Eurasian Economic Union are the largest economic unities. Their combined share in the world GDP is about 27%. Well-developed infrastructure (Belt and Road Initiative, reconstruction of Transsib in Russia, «Arctic» railway in Finland etc.), partnership agreements (Comprehensive Economic and Partnership Agreements, General Scheme of Preferences between EU and Armenia; EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Belarus), as well as achievements of the digital revolution are creating a space for cooperation in the field of digital innovations, e-commerce and investments, promotion of international labor standards, protection of intellectual property. In the course of digitalization, the interpenetration of the European and Eurasian markets will only increase.

Fighting against climate change can become the other channel of interaction between EU and EAEU. It is no secret the degree of climate alarmism among the EAEU citizens clearly inferiors to European residents. Senior researcher of Austria Environmental Agency Gilbert Ahamer claims that European ecologists must develop projects in the wider Euro-Eurasian space. Cooperation should involve not only export of technologies, but environmental education of citizens and increasing of business social responsibility as well. Experience of successful cooperation on the sustainable development goals will be the first step to trust, which may be extrapolated to other areas in the future.

Last but certainly not the least, covering of moral aspect. The personal example of the forum’s expert Teresa Bender-Sabelkampf makes obvious that international clashes cannot distract attention from human rights. Together with the largest Russian human rights society “Memorial” Teresa is working on the rehabilitation of the political repression victims and establishing World War II missing persons’ names. Simultaneously, Teresa deals with the problem of domestic violence in Eastern Ukraine and Lampedusa.

After an intensive week of lectures and workshops, the participants were invited to propose their own scenarios for a wider Europe.  Each group developed possible action plan for the EU and EAEU countries until 2030, taking into account the possibility of a climate, socio-economic or humanitarian crisis.

In all the three cases participants managed to find rational way out of the crisis, thus justified the possibility a common EU-EAEU ingration bloc. The best scenario is to be published in a leading journal.

The work accomplished during the forum proves that a greater Europe from Lisbon to Vladivostok is not a utopia, but rather an effective tool for solving the current problems.

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