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The outcomes of the panel session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum "European and Eurasian integration: possibilities for a new interface": European business will continue to develop cooperation with partners in the EAEU countries

The outcomes of the panel session of the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum "European and Eurasian integration: possibilities for a new interface": European business will continue to develop cooperation with partners in the EAEU countries


European business wants to expand cooperation with partners in the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), despite the absence of institutional interaction between the European and Eurasian economic commissions. Such conclusions were made by the participants of the panel session "European and Eurasian integration: possibilities for a new interface" held in the framework of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum on June 1. 

The Chairman of the EEC Board, Tigran Sargsyan, acted as a moderator of the session. His partner and organizer of the interactive voting was the Member of the Board - Minister in charge of Integration and Macroeconomics of the EEC, Tatyana Valovaya. Search for formats and tools to maintain and develop the constructive dialogue between the European and Eurasian economic unions became the main topic of the event.

Tigran Sargsyan noted that the current session was a continuation of last year's topic. He recalled that interactive voting conducted on the site in 2016 showed that those, who saw the European Union as the most desired partner of the EAEU, were only a relative majority – 26% of the voters.

This year, almost half of the session participants (41%) voted in favour of the development of the dialogue with the EU. 70% of voters believe that European business is ready to cooperate with the Eurasian one.

Tigran Sargsyan drew attention to the beginning of an important stage in the EAEU development last year  – negotiations with China on signing of a trade and economic agreement were started. "This track can be considered the most important in the trade and economic agenda of the Union and a key element of the EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt conjunction. We need a barrier-free environment, an access to markets and mutually acceptable standards and rules both with China and Europe," Tigran Sargsyan emphasised. He also announced the signing a statement between the EEC and India of starting negotiations on a free trade agreement. 

The Dean of the World Economy and World Policy Faculty of the National Research University Higher School of Economics, the Honorary Chairman of the Presidium of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, Sergey Karaganov, noted that the EAEU countries began to turn to the East, since it is difficult to come to understanding with European bureaucracy. In his opinion, business associations have elaborate an agenda, which should be brought to European and Eurasian commissions. The speaker believes that to build a dialogue the movement from below is important, while one should go forward carefully.

The President of Alstom in Russia, the Member of the Board of the Association of European Businesses (AEB), Philippe Pegorier, noted in his speech that despite the absence of an institutional dialogue between the EU and the EAEU, European companies operated in the Union's common market, taking advantage of its benefits. To encourage business cooperation, Philippe Pegorier invited to develop transport corridors. He also expressed the view that the accession of all the EAEU countries to the World Trade Organization would promote closer interaction. 

In his view, a political impetus on the part of Germany and France is necessary, perhaps the situation will be affected by the new French President.   

For his part, Tigran Sargsyan spoke about his experience of interaction with the European business. According to him, the attitude of the participants of the events organized this year by two largest business associations of Germany indicates that cooperation between Europe and Eurasia meets the interests of business, and the credibility to the Eurasian Commission is high enough. 

The President of the Association “Conoscere Eurasia”, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Banca Intesa, Antonio Fallico, believes that the European Union that celebrated its 60 anniversary today is facing new challenges, and it does not still have any reply to most of them. According to him, the EU considers itself to be a legislator of integration fashion, and perhaps this is one of the misconceptions. Antonio Fallico called on the European Union to develop a technical dialogue at the working level and to laboriously work on its development. "Representatives of European business need to understand that the dialogue and work will not be carried out with individual countries, but with the EAEU, only in the framework of this organization, and it is necessary to be taken into account," he said.  

Talking about options for establishing relations between the EU and the EAEU, the President of the EAEU Business Council, Viktor Khristenko, emphasised that the world had changed dramatically. Its future is formed with four critical infrastructures: transport, information, energy and finance. “They define the shape of the economy," the Head of the EAEU Business Council said. “And a "digit" changes in principle everything. In this situation, there is one way of building processes both within integrations, and between them – unification and digitalization of these four infrastructures."

The Vice Prime Minister, the Minister of International Economic Integration and Reforms of the Republic of Armenia, Vache Gabrielyan, stated that Armenia regarded European and Eurasian integration processes as complementary ones and strove, comparing them, to develop formats that would be applicable on a wider scale, throughout the Eurasian territory. "Armenia as such does not lay claim to being a bridge between the EU and the EAEU. This requires economic opportunities, the presence of economies of scale and a host of other things. However, our experience shows that cooperation between the EU and the EAEU has a perspective," Vache Gabrielyan said.

The Chairman of the Board of Directors of Eurasian Resources Group S.a.r.l. (ERG), Aleksandr Mashkevich, being a philosopher, not just a businessman, finds it necessary to hold a dialogue right now, doing something every day for future cooperation. "We must seek to harmonize standards, first of all creating more favourable conditions for doing business in our own country. Let's show to the world that we are open. We need to strengthen cooperation in all areas and with everyone. In my opinion, only a harmonious person can become successful. The same can be attributed to the state," the speaker said. 

Discussion of the prospects for cooperation between the European and Eurasian Unions were attended by the President of Thomas Vendome Investment, the former Advisor to the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy Jean-Pierre Thomas, the General Director of the Association of European Businesses (AEB), Frank Schauff, the ex-European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle.