Remarks by Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov at the conference “The EU and Emerging Powers”. European Parliament, Brussels, 30 April 2013

The topic of today’s round table and the entire conference – The EU and Emerging Powers – is quite relevant, as we are witnessing the emergence of not only an increasingly globalised world economy, but also of a new global balance of power and development of a polycentric system of international relations.

Of course, having said that, I have to make a comment on the terminology used. Many of my compatriots would be surprised, or even offended, by seeing Russia put into the category of “emerging powers”. It is, at best, a re-emerging power. In that sense, the reference to the EU itself as an emerging power would be more appropriate. 

The decreasing capacity of the historic West to play a key role in global politics and economy causes neither satisfaction, nor gloating in Russia. But this is a reality which must be taken into account by all. Attaining a balance between political and economic potentials of developed and emerging countries is the right way towards a real strengthening of the principle of multilateralism in global affairs that, as we know, is supported by the European Union. 

Most countries of the world, including my own, now have a stronger understanding that global stability and higher pace of global economic growth can be reached more effectively through collective efforts of states and integration bodies.

This approach has manifested itself in the creation of the BRICS. The pace of its development proved that it is an influential group of states which has a say in the financial and economic areas and its own approaches towards global affairs. BRICS is evolving in line with converging interests – a reality dictated by life itself – of its constituent states. 

Let me give you some general statistics demonstrating the weight and potential of the “Five”. BRICS countries are home to almost half of the world’s population; their total territory takes up 30 per cent of the land surface of the Earth. Moreover, since 2001 BRICS has accounted for over 50 per cent of the global growth in GDP, and the purchasing power of national currencies of the five states has reached 25 per cent of the global purchasing power. In 2011-2012 the total annual economic growth of the BRICS states amounted to 4.7 per cent, whereas the figure for the financial G-7 was only 1.5 per cent. BRICS countries are influential members of leading international and regional platforms (G-8, G-20, APEC, CELAC, AU, CSTO, SCO, etc.).

The growing attention of the international community, including our EU partners, to the BRICS attests to its increasing role in global affairs. Most member states take BRICS seriously and with respect. 

Naturally, the approaches of the Five do not converge on all issues of the global agenda. This is normal and only proves that the BRICS states pursue independent foreign policies, are rightly seen as regional leaders and are aware of their role and responsibility in the emerging system of global governance. By the way, there are differences on foreign policy among EU member states as well, which does not imply, however, the weakness of the Union. 

Cooperation between the BRICS countries within the G-20 is also developing, with the Five becoming, in my view, the main driving force in implementation of decisions on reforming the international monetary and financial system. At the same time, BRICS activities in the G-20 should not be seen by other members of the group as an attempt to establish a sort of a closed club opposed to others. BRICS is not a bloc structure aimed against third countries, as stated in the Declaration adopted at the BRICS summit on the Chinese island of Hainan in 2011. We are convinced that the BRICS states are a positive force of change able to have a favourable impact on the establishment of a fair system of global governance. 

BRICS might be the most glaring example of consolidation of efforts by emerging powers, though by far not the only one and even not a most typical one from a geographical point of view. The current stage of its development is marked by strengthening of regional structures of global governance in the form of active regional and subregional integration. 

We expect that in the future the Eurasian Economic Union, a project envisaging the consolidation of integration processes in the post-Soviet space, will play an important role on the regional level of global governance. The already existing Customs Union and the Common Economic Space comprising Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan serve as a structural basis for the future Union – which, by the way, is open for other countries wiling to join, and not exclusively post-Soviet ones. 

One of the key features of the Customs Union is that its activities are based on WTO rules. Russia has recently become a member of this Organisation; meanwhile, other participants of the Customs Union pursue a policy towards WTO accession. In my view, this factor is an objective reason for coupling the Eurasian and European integration. As stated by President Vladimir Putin, “a strong Eurasian Economic Union will be a natural partner for the EU able to reach an agreement with Brussels on the establishment of a common economic space from the Atlantic to the Pacific”. 

New trends in global development dictate the need to further develop cooperation between Russia and the European Union, in particular with a view to strengthening their competitiveness in the world. In a month from now, on 31 May, it will be ten years since an agreement was reached at the summit in Saint-Petersburg to establish four Common Spaces between Russia and the EU (a Common Economic Space; a Common Space of Cooperation in External Security; a Common Space of Freedom, Security and Justice; and a Common Space of Research and Education, Including Cultural Aspects). The corresponding Roadmaps adopted two years later, at the Russia-EU summit in May 2005 in Moscow, have become practical instruments for strengthening our relations in all areas and determining their agenda and specific goals for the future. 

Looking back, we can state that, in spite of certain differences and setbacks, over the last decade Russia and the EU have managed to achieve significant results on the way towards genuine and resilient strategic partnership. Mutual trade volume has tripled and reached 306 billion euros in 2012. The European Union is the number one investor into the Russian economy, while Russia, for its part, has retained its role safeguarding European energy security, providing about a third of total EU imports of oil and natural gas. Every year, Russian tourists leave about 18 billion euros in EU member states. A multi-level institutional architecture has been established comprising political contacts at all levels, sectoral dialogues and expert consultations. An equitable dialogue within the Partnership for Modernisation initiative launched in 2010 has brought into our strategic partnership a principally new philosophy – one that envisages uniting our competitive advantages to ensure an innovative model of social and economic development. We have been quite successful, albeit not without certain problems, in our cooperation aimed at supporting regional and global stability and resolving international conflicts by diplomatic means, as well as conducting coordinated operations in the field of crisis management. 

Of course, we are far from idealising our relations. Recently – not least under the influence of the eurozone debt crisis – the EU has, unfortunately, demonstrated diminished flexibility of approach and readiness to search for mutually acceptable compromise solutions on a number of items of our common agenda. We are concerned by attempts by the EU to replace international legal norms with unilaterally adopted pieces of internal EU legislation. Suffice to mention the infamous decision to expand the EU emissions trading system to civil aviation, which led to the creation of a worldwide anti-EU coalition. There is a worrying tendency to re-introduce ideology into EU foreign policy approaches which, quite understandably, backfires, hindering EU ambitions, creating artificial limitations of its freedom to act on a global scale. 

The new realities, in my view, make it imperative for leading players on the international arena to further synchronise their efforts. This fully refers to Russia-EU cooperation. Though in certain aspects we might be undergoing different phases of development, we share a common vector of long-term response to the challenges of our time. Just as the European Union, Russia is in search of external drivers of its development and is opening up its economy to foreign investors. Last year marked the end of the 18-year marathon of Russia’s WTO accession; negotiations on the country’s membership in the OECD have entered an active stage. Parallel to EU member states acting under the Strategy 2020, Russia has embarked upon the path of modernising its economy, increasing the share of its hi-tech sectors, enhancing its investment intensity and improving business climate. Another priority is eliminating visa barriers for short-term travel for Russian and EU citizens. 

In my view, Russia and the EU are facing a historical chance to bring our equal, future-oriented relations to a qualitatively new level. Coupling unique competitive advantages that Russia and the EU have in the global division of labour can become a strong driver of innovative development, enhance the resilience of our continent to external economic turbulence and contribute to strengthening security of Wider Europe and its voice in global affairs.