Welcome address by Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov to the Conference “EU-Russia: Partnership for Modernisation or Conservation?” Vienna, 2 November 2011

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me start with some figures that may help to appreciate the scale of the problem we are all facing.

According to the “Russian Innovation Index” published last spring by the Russian Higher School of Economics, only 9.4% of Russian enterprises are engaged in technological innovations. This figure is far lower than those in the majority of European countries, Brazil or China. Russia’s share in high-tech exports today represents only 0.25%, and it has reduced practically in half since 2003.

On the other hand, Research and Development investment within the EU is currently under 2% of the aggregate GDP against 2.5% in the US and more than 3% in Japan. The EU has committed itself to bringing this indicator to the level of 3 percent, but the initial time-frame for the aim has now been postponed to a later date. At the same time technological advantage of Europe of 27 over emerging major economies, primarily China, is dwindling.

And now allow me to switch from figures to classical literature and quote the first line of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina”: “All happy families resemble each other, but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”. And the answer to the question of how to improve the situation, how to make our countries-families happier is self-evident – we need modernisation which has really become a genuine demand of the times, an imperative for successful economic development.

Today’s environment, economic, scientific and technological as well as – and that is quite important ideological basis for modernisation differ from those that accompanied modernisation processes in the past, and therefore to resolve the tasks we face now we need fundamentally new, different methods and means. First of all, it should be taken into account that the modern world is an arena of ever-deepening and widening globalisation. And that means that no country, or even a group of countries, can succeed in social, economic, scientific and technological developments alone, on its own, without diverse international relationships. The recent (or current, depending on your viewpoint) global financial and economic crisis has demonstrated quite vividly the interdependence of the modern world. Under these circumstances, the optimal alternative is to move forward jointly through mutually reinforcing diversity. And in the case of the Russian Federation and the European Union there is every reason and opportunity to achieve this.

The Russia-EU summit in Rostov-on Don in June 2010 launched a new area of cooperation, namely Partnership for Modernisation. The decision to engage in joint work along this track was not taken by chance. For Russia the importance of enhancing cooperation with the constantly evolving European Union is quite evident. The EU is Russia’s largest trade partner, its closest neighbour, still a powerful (though, probably, not as dynamic as some others are nowadays) scientific and technological centre, a serious player on the international political stage. Our strategic partnership embraces a wide scope of areas for practical and potential cooperation, including those directly related to modernisation.

In its documents the European Union defines as key aims those similar to the ones that are put forward by the Russian leadership. I would point out the long-term development strategy up to the year 2020 (the so called “Europe-2020” Strategy). It defines three main priorities: developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation, promoting a more resource-efficient, greener and more competitive economy, and fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion. It is not a secret that Russia faces the same tasks.

Describing the economic situation in Russia, one may note that our country has on the whole successfully passed the test for a responsible internal and external economic policy in the context of combating the global financial and economic crisis. The growth rate of Russia’s GDP, its expanding trade relations, latest steps in promoting foreign investment clearly testify to this. We are certainly aware of the weak points of the Russian economy, its predominantly raw materials-oriented nature – even though in some areas of research and development results achieved in Russia are not only at the level of best world standards, but sometimes outstrip them. That is why the country’s leadership has put in the forefront of its internal economic policy a programme to shift economy to innovative development.

Russia does not need to be convinced, or lesser still, to be coerced to modernise. Unfortunately, we know from our own past experience that political and economic stagnation leads to catastrophic results – the 20th century gave painful lessons at least twice to the Russian society in this respect. It is obvious and world-wide experience confirms that that it would be naïve to sit idle waiting for a possibility to blindly import modernisation recipes from abroad. Thus, our vision of the Partnership for Modernisation is that of an important addition contributing to serious internal work undertaken in this direction. It can not replace own efforts either of Russia or of the EU in this area, but thanks to a synergy of efforts may substantially increase the effectiveness of our work, and of yours.

The Partnership for Modernisation did not take off from square one. It builds on results achieved so far in the context of the four Russia-European Union Common Spaces. Existing sectoral dialogues have become the key implementation instrument for the initiative, providing framework for mutually beneficial projects in priority areas for cooperation. Russian and EU leaders have appointed coordinators of the Partnership (Deputy Minister of Economic Development Andrey Slepnev, and Director of the European External Action Service Gunnar Wiegand, respectively). The coordinators have set up a permanent working mechanism, meet regularly in a bilateral format or together with representatives of the sectoral dialogues. Such a framework allows productive discussions on priority areas for cooperation, gives an opportunity to send additional signals if projects slip due to different reasons.

A Work Plan for activities within the Russia-EU Partnership for Modernisation was adopted nearly a year ago. The Work Plan is an informal rolling working tool and is being regularly updated. It has enlisted the first batch of projects agreed and includes new proposals regularly put forward by either side.

Booklets distributed for this conference allege that the Partnership for Modernisation has ostensibly ground to a halt. I can not subscribe to this point of view. At first glance, probably, there are no large scale breakthrough results yet. But it is quite natural: we are still at the very beginning of the road. Nevertheless, a lot has already been done or is under way. For example, in the energy field, including energy efficiency, both sides are engaged in substantial dialogue on a Roadmap on energy cooperation for the period until 2050. In the area of promoting a low-carbon and resource efficient economy, the two sides agreed to enhance the exchange of experience in the regulation of industrial activities. A major conference with the participation of the private sector on waste-reduction as a business opportunity is planned.

The Russian component of a shared environmental information system has been launched. A seminar to review the experiences of application of the Convention on assessment of environmental impact in transboundary context (the Espoo Convention) on the Nord Stream and the possibility of its use for other transboundary projects has been held.

The dialogue on public health has been refocusing on clinical trials of pharmaceuticals, on fight against counterfeit medicines, and on communicable diseases.

Russian and EU scientists actively participate in research programmes of each other. On October 21, 2011 a Russian Souyz launch vehicle made its maiden flight from the space port of Kourou in French Guyana. During the launch the first two satellites of the European Union Global navigating satellite system, Galileo, were put into orbit. The Roskosmos-European Union-European Space Agency cooperation programme envisages as many as fifty such launches.
The successful progress in Russia’s WTO accession negotiations is also duly included in the Partnership for Modernisation record.

Our Partnership does not limit itself to economic, scientific and technological areas. In another priority area of the rule of law, strengthening of the legal environment, improving investment and social climate, a joint project with the Council of Europe to support the setting up in Russia of an appeal system for criminal and civil court cases has been launched and is being successfully implemented. Anti-corruption cooperation is emerging. A list of Common Steps towards Visa-Free Short-Term Travel of Russian and EU citizens is on the verge of being finally approved. We proceed from the understanding that its implementation will open the possibility to engage without delay in negotiations on a Russia-EU visa waiver agreement.

Interest in the Partnership for Modernisation projects emanating from business circles in Russia as well as in the EU – gives ground for optimism regarding the Partnership’s future. Our conference is another vivid testimony to this. Vnesheconombank of Russia, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank are ready to provide financial support (EUR 1,5 billion) for co-financing of modernisation projects under the Partnership.

I will stress another important aspect. The Russia-EU Partnership for Modernisation is complemented with “modernisation partnerships” between the Russian Federation and individual European Union Member States. Up to now relevant bilateral memoranda have been signed with as many as 18 EU member states, including Austria. We see this multi-level scheme of cooperation as very advantageous as it provides for effective use of benefits of the existing industrial and research specialisation between EU member states, contributes to establishing and deepening of regional cooperation.

With such a service record of the Partnership, may one really speak of conservation? And the list of what has been achieved is far from being exhaustive. Russian and the European Union leaders will receive a detailed progress report on the Partnership for Modernisation at the forthcoming summit in Brussels.
We fully realise that a lot of work lies ahead. Difficulties may arise along this road: this is quite natural, as interests and priorities can not coincide everywhere, especially taking account of the fact that in some areas Russia and the EU are competitors. But the most important thing is that we have a joint aim to achieve results and are ready to work together. I hope that this conference will contribute to progress in modernising our countries.