On the future of (wider) Europe

_ Yuri Kofner, editor-in-chief, Eurasian Studies. Munich, 28 July 2020.*

In June 2020 German state media continued to disseminate biased allegations against my persona and activities. For this reason, I once again feel compelled to refute them with the following official statements:

Allegation 1. Russian “hegemony”

Never ever have I argued in favour of “Russian hegemony” – neither in/over Europe, nor in/over the post-Soviet space, nor elsewhere. Saying otherwise is an absurd lie.

Western media and expert circles continue to accuse the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) of being allegedly a projection of Moscow’s geopolitical ambitions in the post-Soviet space. However, this biased judgment is as (in)correct, as is the opinion that the EU is supposedly an instrument of Germany’s hegemony over Europe.

The opposite is the case: based on WTO rules and the European integration experience, the EAEU aims, at least in its treaty’s intentions, to create greater legality, free market relations and rigorous multilateral rules that all member states, including Russia, should abide by.

The governing bodies of the Eurasian Union are democratic. All decisions between the member states have to be made by consensus, and each member state has one vote, regardless of economic size or population.

In contrast to the EU, the EAEU integration agenda and the powers of the Eurasian Economic Commission are limited to economic issues only. The Eurasian Economic Union does not pursue a value policy and is not allowed not interfere in the domestic political systems of its member states.

For the first time in the history of Northern Eurasia, the EAEU is a completely peaceful, voluntary, formally democratic, equal and market-oriented integration project of the countries and peoples of this region, just as the European community sought for Europe after the Second World War.

In addition, the EAEU is not a competitive project in relation to the EU, as is often claimed. Unlike the European Commission, experts and bureaucrats of the Eurasian Economic Commission have never thought of expanding trade and economic cooperation, both with the European Union and with its closest neighbouring countries, as a zero-sum game.

Economists from Germany, Austria and Russia, including myself, have always championed the idea of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation, based on equal consideration of mutual interests – again – both between the EU and the EAEU and between the EAEU and the non-EAEU post-Soviet states.

Allegation 2. “Neo-Eurasianism”

It was further said that I am a supporter of the theory of Eurasianism. Indeed I am. However, in the West this theory has mostly negative connotations, since it has long been discredited by supporters of Russian imperialism and statism. I have always criticized this trend and I myself am a supporter of so called “pragmatic Eurasianism” proposed by the first President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazrabayev and then further developed by leading economists from the Eurasian Development Bank Evgeny Vinokurov and Yaroslav Lissovolik. Pragmatic Eurasianism asserts the primacy of pragmatic (voluntary, gradual) inter-governmental cooperation, economic benefits, historical and geographical features of the regional integration project.

Allegation 3. „A pro-Russian lobbyist“

One journalist brazenly asserted that I allegedly am a lobbyist for the Russian Federation. This is an absolute lie. The term “lobbyism” implies that a person in his position is not only a supporter of certain ideas, but that she or he is paid by a certain party, usually a company or a (foreign) government, to promote certain views.

Indeed, on the whole, I support the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. For example, I believe that the events in the Donbass and Crimea were a reaction to the aggressive foreign interference by the EU and the United States in the internal affairs of Ukraine. By the way, I fully support a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis on the basis of Minsk 2 and the Normandy dialogue, which need to take into account the just concerns of all parties involved. And as it stands out from the previous paragraphs, I advocate close trade and economic cooperation between the EU and the EAEU, based on empirical observations that this format would be economically and geopolitically extremely beneficial for the EU member states, the EAEU and, above all, the “in-between” countries of Eastern Europe – especially Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.

However, I have never received any financial or any other significant form of assistance from Russian organizations (e.g., the RIAC, the Gorchakov Foundation, the Valdai Club) for any actions (e.g., organizing events, establishing contacts, creating websites, etc.) to promote my views. Any converse statements must be proven, and without proof, they remain one thing only – a blatant lie. Everything that I have done so far – I have done at my own expense and despite unjust political adversities. To be honest, I am actually quite frustrated for never having received any financial support from Moscow.

Allegation 4. „An anti-American nationalist“

Concerning the bundle of other allegations, I would like to refute them by stating my positions:

I ardently support European integration, – but based on the strict principles of economic practicability, i.e. subsidiarity, economies of scale, preference heterogeneity, financial sustainability, and international competitiveness. This does not, in any way, call for the dissolvement of the EU and for a return to the nation state. However, I do support the views of many renown German economists who criticise the modern euphoria towards a fiscal union, shared debt, protectionism, a hasty and ill-considered energy transition, the non-resolution of intra-union structural imbalances and the supranational interference into the political systems of member states.

I support close mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation between the US and the EU and their civilizational communality. However, until now, the relationship between the US and the EU seemed to me asymmetric and skewed towards Washington’s national interests. 30 years after the end of the Cold War and the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the armed forces and atomic weapons of the United States continue to be deployed on European soil. The planned TTIP agreement would have posed risks to European health, environmental, labour and consumer protection standards, just as European producers and consumers primarily suffer from the protectionist and sanctions policy currently being implemented by the White House. And through academic cooperation, mass culture, mass media and active public diplomacy, the United States have long been shaping the worldview of the European society and its elites. Similar actions by Russia and China in Europe, albeit being marginal compared to American soft power, are mercilessly and hypocritically being labelled as “subversion”, “propaganda” and “fake news”. I support close transatlantic cooperation; however, these imbalances need to be addressed first.

According to my personal views, any immigrant of any skin colour, ethnicity, sex and belief can become a full-fledged member of the German community, provided that she or he produces the necessary added value for the economy, respects the laws and traditions of the country, learns the language well, and, preferably, connects her or his fate and the fate of her or his family with Germany’s past and future. In Germany’s current poorly thought out migration and labour market integration policies these requirements are not met. Berlin should take a closer look at the experience of the Visegrad countries, Canada, Australia and Japan.

In general, I believe that fiscal and other incentives to increase domestic fertility, female employment, as well as economic productivity through robotization and digital technologies are more important than just stimulating extra-EU immigration. One thing, of course, does not exclude the other, but I proceed from the conviction that it is necessary to reconcile international competitiveness with the preservation of cultural identity in the 21st century. At the same time, principles of personal inviolability, freedom of speech, open and democratic society must be guaranteed at all times.

Germany and Europe need an open, unbiased and civilized debate on the above-mentioned positions, based on the results of empirical research, and not unfounded media accusations against critical voices.

*Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily represent that of the author’s employers or of other mentioned organizations and individuals.

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