Toward a Strategic Alliance

8 may 2006

Timofey Bordachev - Head of the Eurasian Programme of the Foundation for Development and Support of the Valdai Discussion Club, Director of the Center for Comprehensive European and International Studies at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Ph.D. in Political Science, Russia

Resume: By agreeing to extend/renew the PCA, or replace it with another document taken from the foreign-policy nomenclature of the European Commission that reflects its terminology, Russia would be voluntary admitting to its status as a “younger partner,” thus becoming an object for inspection and instruction.

The Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between Russia and the European Union is due to expire in the autumn of 2007. This deadline presents the parties with a challenge to negotiate a legislative and institutional basis for their future relations.

However, Russia and the EU are approaching this discussion with a noticeable lack of interest toward each other, if not outright irritation. By February 2004, when it became obvious that the socio-political and economic models of the parties had greatly diverged, Moscow and Brussels almost assumed the logic of “peaceful coexistence.” The rapprochement issue is now used only as a pretext for achieving economic concessions that are not related to long-term objectives, while the “strategic partnership” slogan often conceals bitter competition on specific economic issues. Meanwhile, bilateral summits, together with any meaningful documents that these events may produce, have been decreasing. Both Russia and the European Union have displayed their inability to formulate joint strategic objectives and tasks, and to define their common values and even their real interests.

This drop in enthusiasm to engage in debate causes the parties to make “pragmatic and earthly” decisions in the spirit of “obligation-fulfillment” (or, rather, non-fulfillment). The public and political atmosphere, every bit as dull as the texts of the Russian-EU joint Road Maps approved in May 2005, does nothing to help find answers to longstanding problems. Adherence to a policy of pragmatism can bring about a situation where breakthrough ideas for the future may become unclaimed.

However, given that Russia and the European Union are already so close, and the real content of their mutual relations is so considerable, the parties require a fundamentally new level of confidence. This will be impossible to accomplish, however, by relying on practices and institutions that were formed in the early 1990s when the situation was quite different. The Russian-EU agenda now includes issues that were impossible to imagine 10 to 15 years ago.

Russia and the European Union – two inseparable parts of the Old World that is presently losing its global influence – must free themselves from the fetters of their bilateral legal and institutional base. Although this base keeps their mutual relations from further degradation, it serves to hinder further progress at the same time. Russia and the EU will be able to formulate a long-term model for their relations only if they overcome stereotypes and recognize the possibility of various variants, including unorthodox ones. Genuine integration wherever possible and necessary is more likely to bring about open markets and the free movement of people, goods, services and capital than the hasty inclusion into grand bureaucratic plans of ever new directions of the “harmonization.” It is also more advantageous than to simply proclaim an association of such diverse actors as a common goal.

The historical division of Europe will not be overcome unless Russia and the EU form an alliance genuinely oriented to the future. The geostrategically ailing European Union has entered a long period of internal transformation; from an objective view, it needs Russia economically and politically to advance its interests on the international stage, although it is not ready yet to admit this officially. Russia, presently involved in a complex geostrategic encirclement and losing its positions in many objective parameters, needs the European Union, at least in the medium term, as well.

The relative stability of the Russian system of government, which rests on the population’s support and the favorable situation on the world energy market, allows Moscow to more actively advance its own vision of strategic objectives and forms of cooperation, while ensuring equal rights for its partners. Therefore, Russia must not be viewed de facto as a “younger partner” of the EU. The EU should gradually depart from its present position that its outside partners must adopt “light” versions of EU laws and standards (acquis communautaire) in order to bring about progress in their relations with Brussels.

AFTER 2007: THREE VARIANTS

From the legal point of view, there is no “2007 problem” in Russia-EU relations. Article 106 of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement stipulates that the Agreement shall be automatically renewed year by year provided that neither Party gives the other Party written notice of denunciation of the Agreement at least six months before it expires. Yet the need for a new document is already on the Russia-EU agenda. There are now three ways for the parties to formalize their relations after 2007.

The first way is to provide for the automatic renewal of the PCA on an annual basis, as provided for by Article 106. At this point, the main emphasis of the agreement will be to fill the joint Road Maps on Four Common Spaces with specific content. Some of the PCA provisions may lose their force after a lapse of time. One thing is certain: the PCA will gradually die out without an adequate replacement.

The second way is to add new provisions to the PCA in order to revise the basis for institutional cooperation for the next 10 to 15 years. For example, it may acquire the format of the EU’s relations (an association, a free trade zone, etc.) with states located along its periphery and with former colonies of European nations in Africa.

The third way is to draft a new political and legal document (a package of documents) that will completely replace the PCA and that will be ratified, if need be, by Russia, the European Union and its member countries. Ratification may not be required for the general political document (Declaration), but only for individual agreements on specific issues (sectoral agreements).

However, it seems that the less painful method would be to simply extend the PCA, providing it with new articles that would reflect the achievements scored over the last few years, including the Energy Dialogue and the Road Maps on Four Common Spaces. Brussels prefers exactly such a scenario, as it will allow the European Commission to retain the role of leader in relations with Russia, while reducing the influence of individual EU member countries that are more interested in the development of contacts with Moscow. This type of relationship model would suit a significant part of the EU political elite, as it would save the Union the need to work out a clear-cut strategy for developing relations with Russia. Moreover, it would enable Brussels to focus on efforts to overcome its own system crisis.

At the same time, Moscow may find this variant attractive because it would spare it the need to form a strong negotiating team for drafting, together with the European Union, a new document. The catastrophic shortage of qualified experts, in addition to the marked disunity among government agencies, makes it very difficult to form an efficient task force.

However, by agreeing to extend/renew the PCA, or replace it with another document taken from the foreign-policy nomenclature of the European Commission that reflects its terminology, Russia would be voluntary admitting to its status as a “younger partner,” thus becoming an object for inspection and instruction. The arm-twisting technique frequently used by the European Union in economic issues (witnessed by its position on the Siberian overflight payments charged to European airlines) would become a regular practice.

On the whole, the format of political and legal relations between Russia and the EU does not essentially influence the development of real integration wherever there is mutual interest. Many countries that have much closer and effective ties with the EU than Russia do not seek to formalize their commitments by ratifying them in parliament and making them part of national law. One of these countries is the United States, which has a visa-free regime and a huge trade turnover with the European Union; yet, it makes do with general political declarations accompanied by a package of bilateral agreements and binding working plans on specific issues.

EMPHASIS ON EQUALITY

The development of a new format for developing political and legal relations between Russia and the European Union requires revising some of the present approaches.

First, the future model of Russia-EU relations must reflect Russia’s special role in Europe and the world. This means that the new document (package of documents) cannot fall within the same “system of coordinates” as the EU’s present practice of formalizing relations with neighboring states. Thus, any new model should not stem from other generally known formats and titles of EU agreements with other countries, such as Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, Association Agreement, European Agreements, and so on.

Second, the new agreement cannot be an “instruction” for drawing Russia closer to the constantly changing regulatory policies concerning political and economic life in the European Union. In practice, bilateral documents are usually substituted by agreed versions of the EU’s internal documents reflecting its vision of what Russia should do. Broadly speaking, it is necessary to avoid excessive emphasis on “harmonization of legislation” as a universal instrument for developing trade, economic and humanitarian ties. Russia’s adoption of EU legislation, without raising the issue of obtaining EU membership, would make no sense.

Both parties must be guided by international law, World Trade Organization regulations and other legislative norms. This does not rule out, however, Russia’s adoption of individual norms in cases when it does not involve yielding its state sovereignty. Moreover, in the future, if the parties are prepared to form supranational forms of cooperation in one or another field, new regulations may be hammered out at that time.

And third, any new document between the parties must avoid evaluative judgments about the state of the Russian economy and its society as a whole. Statements to the effect that the European Union recognizes Russia as a “developed democratic country, possessing the fundamentals of a market economy” look as an attempt to place the EU a step above Russia, thus undermining the principle of equality.

Instead, the parties should consider a document that acknowledges the establishment of a strategic union (community) between Russia and the European Union as a new means for ensuring regional and international security. To this end, Moscow and Brussels must voice their common vision of major issues concerning international life. Despite their tactical disagreement on a majority of pressing issues (such as the role of the United Nations and other international institutions, the supremacy of international law, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism measures, cross-border crime and drug-trafficking, measures to stabilize the Greater Middle East, environmental problems, etc.), the positions of Russia and the European Union are quite close. Therefore, the parties should see to it that their common strategic interests take precedence over individual disagreements or phobias inherited from the past.

A new joint document could cite universally agreed principles, by which Russia and the EU abide in their international affairs and bilateral relations. These principles include the observance of human rights, freedom and equality in international trade, and the organization of the due political process in keeping with the existing norms. The parties should clearly state that they will continue to build their bilateral economic relations on the basis of, and taking into account, the adaptation of Russian legislation to the rules and standards of the WTO, which Russia seeks to join in the near future. If economic interests demand closer integration in one or another field, the corresponding harmonization of legislation in the given area will be adopted in a separate agreement.
Russia and the European Union should focus on selective integration in economic areas where it can bring them real added value, as well as a long-term instrument for building their economic and geopolitical community. For example, the parties may consider the possibility of setting up supranational associations, like a Russian-European Oil and Gas Association, a Russian-European Transport and Space Association, or a Russian-European Environmental Community. In those areas where the parties are not yet ready for integration, they will retain their full sovereignty and relations in the form of cooperation.

THREE LEVELS OF RELATIONS

The above principles can be translated into life on the basis of a three-level system of political and legal relations between Russia and the European Union. This system will allow the parties to take into account their unique characteristics, interests and international circumstances.

Level one. A strategic framework for Russia-EU relations would be established by a general political document – a Declaration for a Strategic Union Treaty – that would work as a detailed preamble. Its stated goal would be the establishment of a Strategic Union between Russia and the EU, aimed at overcoming the syndrome of enmity, rivalry and psychological consequences of wars and conflicts of the past, and at consolidating truly allied relations that would provide for deeper integration in individual areas. These relations will not be directed against third countries. The relationship will be based on a common vision of challenges and security threats, the interdependence and interoperability between Russia and the European Union in key economic sectors, and their common cultural and scientific heritage. A final key is that both parties recognize the importance of their rapprochement for ensuring their mutual development and security.

The Declaration should state that the common strategic interests of Russia and the European Union have a priority, and specify areas within the realm of international politics where the interests of the two parties objectively coincide. The Declaration should also cover other issues essential to both parties, among them devotion to basic democratic values, such as supremacy of the law, human rights and the rights of minorities, independence of the judicial system, the division of powers, a competitive political environment, independence of the mass media, and the freedom of citizens’ movement. Also, it should stress that Russia and the EU will build their mutual relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and transparency, and that, while operating within the framework of international and regional organizations, they will seek to take into account each other’s positions, coordinate their efforts, and align their approaches as close as possible.

A strategic union between Russia and the European Union would serve as a crucial link between regional security systems in Europe, Asia and North America. To add a systemic nature to the parties’ relations in the military and political spheres, the Declaration must name instances when it would be appropriate for mutual cooperation in their foreign policy and military cooperation, as well as in peace-making efforts.

Level two. Russia and the European Union would adopt a strategic agenda that would name specific areas for their cooperation. One would be cooperation in ensuring international and regional security, as well as eliminating 21st century threats and risks, including terrorism, environmental problems, poverty, and others. This section may include a list and description of joint initiatives for resolving specific issues pertaining to international security, military cooperation and peace-making activities, as well as references to specific provisions of international law underlying such joint activities.

Another important area is cooperation in the realm of international trade and the global economy. It would be expedient to specify the parties’ plans with regard to issues of mutual interest in individual sectors of the economy and international trade, provided in detail in the general section of the Declaration.
The third section of this agenda could focus on cooperation in ensuring freedom of people’s movement and unimpeded transit. This cooperation must be based on the declared intention of introducing visa-free movement of citizens through a gradual simplification of the visa regime. Also, the agenda should mention the need to simplify, as much as possible, a mechanism of transit through the Kaliningrad Region.

Another section, devoted to cultural and humanitarian cooperation, which is a major area of concern in the debates on rapprochement between Russia and EU, may contain a list of the existing and planned initiatives for the development and strengthening of joint activities. This section should state the plans of the parties to intensify and encourage the exchange of students, teachers and scientists.

Of fundamental importance is a special section that calls for cooperation between businesses and civil societies. The lack of mechanisms and instruments for protecting business interests is now a key problem in Russia-EU relations. This section must contain a list of plans and ideas for advancing dialog inside the business community, as well as between nongovernmental organizations. First, Russian businesspeople, with rare exception, are not ready to invest seriously in the creation of a lobbyist infrastructure. Second, the nature of the relationship between business and government in Russia is not always conducive to protecting the interests of Russian entrepreneurs abroad. The Russia-EU negotiating process remains at a dead end and lacks real transparency for the Russian business community; this is why its interests are not duly taken into consideration.

Considering the unique role the EU plays in Russia’s foreign trade (about 50 percent), it would be expedient to raise the issue of expanding the representation of Russian business interests at European supranational institutions, and creating a legal foundation for the integration of Russian businesses into the business community of the United Europe. Russia and the EU may even work out a separate agreement to support the representation of nongovernmental interests. The main objective of this (sectoral) agreement would be granting Russian and EU businesspeople the right to represent and protect their interests on the territory of their partners.

At the same time, business circles must be obliged to coordinate their approaches to issues of economic relations within the framework of special consultative mechanisms. Associations, companies and their representatives should be guaranteed access to governmental information (this would require, of course, a strictly defined type of documents and could occur only at a certain stage of development between the parties). Also, the parties should submit drafts of the interstate agreements and other documents to Russian and EU councils of entrepreneurs for consideration prior to the decision-making stage.
The last section of the agenda should be devoted to the documents’ implementation, including a provision on the creation of a special mechanism for supervising the implementation of the agreed plans between Russia and the European Union.

And finally, level three. This includes sectoral agreements of various scales and binding to different degrees. These agreements will serve as a true “motor” and practical instrument for developing Russia-EU relations. They must provide for the functional integration in individual areas between the parties, up to and including the unification of market segments. Years ago, this was the functional approach – the achievement of political integration through in-depth cooperation in purely technical areas – that launched the entire process of European integration. So it would be expedient to apply to Russia-EU relations those practices that formed the European Coal and Steel Community of the early 1950s – the only successful experience of overcoming conflict and contradictions between formerly unfriendly countries, when the participation of France and Germany in the ECSC met their economic interests and also became a decisive factor in their historical reconciliation.

Cooperation on a functional basis makes it possible to reduce discrimination toward one of the partners in the project to the minimum. At least three of the ECSC founders (France, Germany and Italy) strengthened their shaken positions with the help of the new organization and became leaders of the new historical process. The functional approach enables countries to be more flexible in the adoption of certain norms and values as a mandatory condition for integration. In the Treaty of Rome on the establishment the European Economic Community (EEC), signed in 1957, it occurred to no one to make the participation of France conditional upon the cessation of its military operations in Algeria.

Additionally, the functional rapprochement and direct interaction of the supranational governance bodies, businesses and societal structures of the parties involved will help create what the present relations between Russia and the European Union and, perhaps, between the EU countries themselves, lack most of all, and that is an atmosphere of confidence. However, functional integration can be successful only if the rules of the game are equally advantageous to all the participants. If, on the other hand, integration presupposes or results in the ousting of any of the participants from the market, it will never work.
Obvious potential areas for Russia-EU cooperation include transport, education, space exploration and, possibly, power engineering. Transport – especially air transport – is one of the best areas to launch a Russian-European integration project. Profits in this sphere are minimal, while large airlines, both in Russia and the EU, experience similar difficulties. The scale of state support in this industry, which is necessary even in the United States, is approximately the same in all countries. But most importantly, the potential contribution of Russia and the EU to the “joint stock” can be equal. This factor will let the parties avoid seller-buyer relations, which inevitably transform any dialog into a banal form of bargaining.

Of all the aforementioned documents meeting the new political and legal format of Russia-EU relations, only sectoral agreements require parliamentary ratification. Therefore, the parties will avoid negative consequences that would stem from the need to push the issue of a Russia-EU strategic union through the legislatures of EU member states, with which Moscow has strained relations due to historical and psychological factors.

This article sets forth major provisions of the Concept of a New Political and Legal Format of Russia-EU Relations, a working document drafted by the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences (the Center for Applied Russia-EU Studies), the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy (SVOP), and Russia in Global Affairs. The authors of the project express their gratitude to Sergei Karaganov, Deputy Director of the Institute of Europe, for his constructive criticism and proposals, many of which were taken into account, and to all the participants of the public discussion organized by SVOP and held at the Institute of Europe on November 22, 2005. The authors are grateful to the initiators of the Concept for Modernizing the Russia-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and Concluding an Advanced Partnership Agreement Establishing an Association. Their arguments and conclusions provided a strong stimulus for the attempt, made in this article, to go beyond the frameworks of the official agenda in Russia-EU relations.

Last updated 8 may 2006, 11:25

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