Is Russia Withdrawing from Rule of Law Principles?

Between 2013 until mid-2015, around 45.000 Russians have turned to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg (Moscow Times, 10.12.2015). The majority of cases was decided against the Russian administration, for the protection of Russian citizens. The ECHR can rule also against a constitution of a signatory state – which was the case e.g. in an equality and nin-discrimination case aganst Germany where the Constitution had ruled that women cannot fight in the army, resp. nit fight in combat troops. A female future helicopter pilot had this examined legally, and won finally. The German Constitution had to be changed. So, the ECHR is a (not only constitutional) watchdog, with many judgments in favour of judicial rights of the citizens. Since Eastern European states are subject of ECHR decisions, there is a certain tendency in favour of a liberal society, abiding to the rule of law. It is good to have international courts in Europe, and the ECHR and its EU counterpart, the Court of European Justice (CEJ) in Luxembourg have all confidence of the citizens. These courts are a guarantee of the sum of all positive legal traditions.

But now Russia has managed to adopt a new law, and this within days:. The Federal Constitutional Law of 14.12.2015 № 7-FKZ: „On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law“ – On the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. The law has been initiated in the parliament on 18.11.2016 and was approved on 4.12.2015 State (Duma) resp. 9.12.2015 (Federation Council), then signed by the president on 14.12.2015. This speed says it all; only  semi-auhoritarian and authoritarian regimes can afford to whip a law through parliament that fast, without gathering any feedback by civil society (which hardly exists in Russia). The law says that its Constitutional Court can exempt Russia of international judgments, if this judgment is against the Russian Constitution. So Russia is, again, alone.

This cannot be compared to the case of the United States who did not want their military staff responsible before an international court. The ECHR concerns civilians. Russia evidently took the Yukos case to trigger its new policy, also to save 1,9 billion EUR compensation to be paid to former Yukos shareholders. This case has to do with arbitrary use of procedural rights, as well as with the case against Michail Khodorkovsky, another example which can show very contestable Russian standards of the rule of law.

Russia should know that this new law is considered by the Rule-of-Law community of the world as being against its own interests, against foreign Investment in the country which would be needed so urgently. But it goes hand in hand with the laws about „foreign agents“. It is the point on the „i“ which should defer all relevant decisions to a post-Putin era, as at present Russia is far away from the rule of law.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal

http://www.eufaj.eu

The Eurasian Economic Union’s Plans for a Common Currency: Altyn or Euraz?

The Eurasian Economic Union is a Russian-led project. On the way of forming it, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that from January 1, 2012 the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan would be created, which would pave the path for the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. Thus, the Custom Union (CU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, launched in 2010[1] was evolved into the Single Economic Space (SES) on January 1, 2012 with Armenia announcing about its interest to join the project on September 3, 2013.

The Eurasian Economic Union was put into force on January 1, 2015. Its purpose can be correlated with Russia’s competitive disposition with the EU, regarding the post-Soviet Union countries. Additionally, the initiative can be Russia’s attempt to counterbalance the EU’s appeal and influence.  Hence, whereas Russia claims that integration is beneficial for all the parties engaged, in reality the picture is not that clear-cut. One of the causes are the political systems and structures of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union – they are not democratic, disposed to corruption and instrumentalization of law. Another evidence is Russia’s aggressive policy of recent years. Moreover, the country’s superior position in shaping the EEU also comes to prove that the project is actually a simulation of integration. The EEU seems to be driven forwards by forceful integration, which is becoming less and less favorable for the member states except for Russia, per se.

Hence, the EEU’s functioning will mainly be dependent on Russia which seeks to push integration involving more and more spheres from which it can get utmost benefits. Such an opportunity appears to be the introduction of a common currency within the EEU. Thus, while other founding members states of the project have been less supportive to such a plan and have been increasingly imitating integration rather than opting for it[2], on March 10, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Central Bank of Russia and the Government „to determine the potential dimensions of the integration in the monetary and financial sectors in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union with a study of the feasibility of establishing a monetary union in the future.“ Putin’s this instruction is to be worked out together with the central banks of the member states of the EEU by September 1, 2015. And the new currency can appear already in 2016[3].

Among many issues the establishment of a monetary union presupposes introduction of a common currency.  Hence, according to the documents ratified by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in May, 2014 in Kazakhstan, a Eurasian Central Bank and a common currency was supposed to be established by 2025[4]. To the point still in 2014 Rinat Abdullin, the chairman of „Altyn Kara“ Bank, stated: „Personally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the introduction of a single currency for our three countries. Many of us lived in the Soviet Union, and they remember that there was a single currency such a large area – the ruble, which was accepted everywhere. No matter whether you were going to the Far East, Siberia or Georgia – it was very convenient, because there was a confidence that all prices are formed in a common currency. This situation is much easier for business, as well as for the calculation of ordinary people“[5].

Yet, the Russian president decided to accelerate the process and this at a time when Russia faces a serious economic crisis and the ruble has practiced a severe depreciation[6] as a result of which the amount of mutual settlements among the member states of the EEU in dollars has increased. Moreover, the West speculated to turn off Russia from the interbank payment system SWIFT, yet to make transactions, say from Russia to Kazakhstan, it is necessary to obtain confirmation from the American settlement centers. Obviously enough, the tense foreign policy pushed Putin to rush with the initiative.

In reaction to the initiative, Armenian Central Bank Board member Armenak Darbinian stated, “there is no document among those signed [by Armenia] within the framework of its accession to the EEU that would concern the feasibility study or prospects related to this matter (introduction of the common currency)… There have been no negotiations, no formal discussions in this direction yet. I would say more: the issue of forming a single financial market regulator was discussed within the framework of the EEU and it should happen after 2025. During this time, national laws and regulations should be harmonized and only then the issue can be put on the agenda. It cannot be an administrative decision. This requires relevant developments in the economy and in the financial markets”[7].

Yet Prosperous Armenia Party former MP, economist Vardan Bostanjyan considers it quite feasible that Armenia incorporates a common currency with the EEU. He adds that it will have a favorable impact on the country, saying that “solely by the fact that quite a number of Armenians are in that [EEU] region; the word is about the migrants who are having losses in the case of [currency] exchange rates. But, now, they will not have that”[8].  However, there are also contra opinions. As such Armenian economist Ashot Yeghiazaryan said, “If we switch to the ruble, or another Eurasian currency, and if our Central Bank begins to keep its funds in that currency, discrepancies will arise between the currency loans, and our entire microeconomics will deviate”[9].

It is to be mentioned that the idea of establishing a common currency has not been accepted straightforwardly also in Belarus and Kazakhstan. The director of the Institute of the Global Political Economics of Kazakstan, analyst Akimbekov Sultan said that the instrumentalization of a common currency should not be an issue of a near future. He states that while the idea is interesting there are apparent problems – all the member states have different levels of development. Moreover, Belarus has not yet undergone those market reforms that, say Russia and Kazakhstan went through.

Belarusian columnist from the Belarusian Radio Liberty and political scientist for the „Strategy“ center Valery Karbalevich stated, “And if we are talking whether the Member States of the EEU in general should have a single currency, I do not think that Kazakhstan and Belarus will agree. This would mean that these countries lose their sovereignty”[10]

With all the events, facts and discussions at stake, it is still to be mentioned that it is totally unthinkable that, for example, during the creation of the euro in the years 1990-1999 (Maastricht Treaty to book-money introduction[11]), and this since the Pierre Werner Plan from 1970, one president would have given a commando to „his“ central bank ordering a study on the possible common currency, predicting its effective introduction for the next year, while the order to the central bank has gone out in March of the current year. Observers from European Union sources, asked privately, have the presumption that the Russian president has an „economic psychogram“ being somehow „actively jealous of the EU acquis communautaire“ which he wants to be caught up rapidly, and „while common currencies are to be welcomed in general, any too fast introduction can damage the participating states considerably“, even if the central bank of the integration is not de facto independent.

As for the idea of the Eurasian currency, on the whole, it dates back to 1994 when the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the notion. In 2012 Vladimir Putin endorsed the idea. The Kazakh President has never been suspicious to reset Soviet Union or Soviet Union 2.0., he was however all the time for economic integration, until a certain time in Central Asia[12]. Concerning the currency within the framework of the EEU, it is said to be similar to the Russian ruble. As for the name of the forthcoming common currency two options, are being discussed – Altyn and Euraz. The first name – Altyn, mentioned by Nazarbayev in 2014, meant a three penny coin in Old Russian and the word itself stems from the Golden Horde. The second name – Euraz, is parallel to, or a kind of imitation of the Euro[13].

It is envisaged that the key element in sustaining the new currency will be raw oil exports from Russia and Kazakhstan. Therefore, it has been decided to base the Central Bank of the EEU in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Evidently, the involved EEU governments want to rely more than ever on oil and gas exports, which is diametrically opposed to what also Russian economists preach. The potential market will include about 180 million people, with the total volume of GDP being more than $ 2 trillion.[14]

Yet, it is under a question whether the member states of the EEU, can indeed make the functioning of a common currency a reality. All the currencies of the member states currently face fluctuations and to avoid this in the event of a common currency additional resources will be required. Moreover, the efficient functioning of the EEU per se is also dubious.

Ofelya Sargsyan

Ofelya Sargsyan M.A. (AUA Yerevan), M.A. (Univ. Flensburg) is Junior Editor with European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ) and a Political Analyst with LIBERTAS – European Institute GmbH.

 

[1]Rilka Dragneva & Kataryna Wolczuk, Russia, the Eurasian Customs Union and the EU: Cooperation, Stagnation or Rivalry?, Russia and Eurasia Programme,  Chatham House, Briefing Paper, August 2012, p. 4, http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Russia%20and%20Eurasia/0812bp_dragnevawolczuk.pdf.

[2] Aleksandra Jarosiewicz, Ewa Fischer, cooperation: Tomasz Bakunowicz; The Eurasian Economic Union – more political, less economic, Centre for Eastern Studies NUMBER 157,  20.01.2015, p. 1-7

[3]TASS Russian News Agenccy, (Информационное телеграфное агентство России (ИТАР-ТАСС), Putin instructed the Central Bank and the Government to work out the possibilities of creating a monetary union in the EEU (Путин поручил ЦБ и кабмину изучить возможность создания валютного союза в ЕАЭС), March 10, 2015, http://tass.ru/ekonomika/1817884,

Radio Azatutyun, Armenia Not To Attend Meeting Of Trade Bloc Partners, March 18, 2015, http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/26891807.html

Naviny.by, Putin instructed to work out the possibilities of creating a monetary union in the EEU (Путин поручил проработать вопрос о создания в рамках ЕEU валютного союза); March 18, 2015, http://naviny.by/rubrics/finance/2015/03/10/ic_news_114_455255/

Читать полностью: http://naviny.by/rubrics/finance/2015/03/10/ic_news_114_455255/

[4]Banknoteinfo.net, Eurasian Economic Union plans to adopt common currency unit , August 13, 2014, http://banknoteinfo.net/eurasian-economic-union-plans-adopt-common-currency-unit/

[5]East Time, Introduction of Altyn will Be Useful for a Eurasian Union, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, http://easttime.info/news/kazakhstan/introduction-altyn-will-be-useful-eurasian-union

[6]Pravda-TV.ru, By Putin’s instruction a common currency of the EEU  will be launced  in 2016: Altyn or Euraz? (Единая валюта ЕАЭС по поручению Путина появится в 2016 году: «алтын» или «евраз»?) http://www.pravda-tv.ru/2015/03/10/129883

[7] Asbarez.com, ‘No Plans Yet’ for Armenia to Adopt Single EEU Currency, March 11, 2015, http://asbarez.com/132864/%E2%80%98no-plans-yet%E2%80%99-for-armenia-to-adopt-single-eeu-currency/

[8]News.am, Economist: Armenia will benefit from Eurasian Economic Union single currency, March 13, 2015, http://news.am/eng/news/256734.html

[9]News.am, Armenia economist: EEU single currency is foolish, March 14, 2015, http://news.am/eng/news/257002.html

[10]Mariam Grigoryan, 1am, (The approach to the single currency of the Eurasian Union is ambiguous in Belarus and Kazakhstan) Բելառուսում և Ղազախստանում միասնական արժույթի վերաբերյալ կարծիքը միանշանակ չէ, March 14, 2015, http://www.1in.am/1572943.html

[11] Before the Euro has been introduced as cash currency in 2002, it had been at disposition as book-money, on bank accounts only, since 1999.

[12] Hans-Jürgen Zahorka, Strategy Options for Central Asian Integration –For a Central Asian „Cecchini Report”, EUFAJ 1 / 2010, p. 116,  www.eufaj.eu

[13]Interpolit, Oil altyn against the dollar banknote (Нефтяной алтын против бумажного доллара);  11.03, 2015, http://politobzor.net/show-47317-neftyanoy-altyn-protiv-bumazhnogo-dollara.html

[14] Russian Telegraphic Agency (Русское Телеграфное Агентство), „Instead of the ruble – Altyn. Eurasian Economic Union opts into a new currency (Вместо рубля – алтын. Евразийский союз переходит на новую валюту), March 12, 2015, http://www.riata.ru/ekonomika/item/716-vmesto-rublya-altyn-evrazijskij-soyuz-perekhodit-na-novuyu-valyutu.html

 

EUFAJ 3 / 2014 is out and online. This is the content:

This is the European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ) link to the new issue of 3rd quarter 2014. In this issue which can be downloaded under this link: http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/EUFAJ/EUFAJ_3_2014.pdf you can find, among others, the following contributions:

Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs): Their Current Positions and Relationship with the EU – Ofelya Sargsyan

Ukraine: Can Meaningful Reform Come Out of Conflict? – Marek Dabrowski

Too Blind to See the Threat We Pose to Russia – Andreas M. Bock

The Latest 2014 Standard Eurobarometer: The European Elections Made a Difference

European Year for Development 2015 – The First European Year Dealing with EU External Policy

The Strategic Culture of Authoritarian Regimes: Mountainous Karabakh Conflict in the Limelight –  Grigor Boyakhchyan

Spanish Regional Parliament Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh’s Self-Determination

EU Commission: New Cooperation Priorities for the Eastern and the Southern Neighbourhood – 5.5 Billion EUR for 2014-2020

Adapting to Arctic ChangeMonica Bjermeland

India: New Business Opportunities – Sourajit Aiyer

Value Africans Place on Education Varies Widely by Country: Africans Often Perceive Personal Connections as More Important to Success – Steve Crabtree 

The whole EUFAJ website can be seen under www.eufaj.eu.

 

New issue of EUFAJ (1-2014): Here are the Headlines

A new number of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal is out: 1-2014. With the following content:

– The EU Internal Market in 10 Years Perspective from Accession of Ten Central and Eastern European Countries in 2004 – Lessons Learned for Eastern Partnership Partner States
– Russia under Putin and the Eurasian Union: An Impossible Possibility?
– Belarusian Identity: The Impact of Lukashenka’s Rule
– The Commonwealth of Independent States in Sequence of the Former USSR: A Tool for the Formation of the Eurasian Union?
– Forming a New Energy Security Alliance in North-Eastern Europe
– Transitioning from a Fossil-Fuel to a Green Economy: Government Policy for Private Sector Participation in Trinidad and Tobago
– The Right to Development and Rights-Based Approach to Development: Two Mutually Reinforcing Concepts?
– Stabilizing the Dynamics in the Global Socio-Economic System: Categorial Clarification for Exhaustive Transparency and Sustainability
– With book reviews on Nagorno Karabakh, Cuba and Africa

With authors from Belarus, Ukraine, Trinidad and Tobago, Switzerland, Armenia, Germany, and the USA (book reviews).

Go to the link: http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/EUFAJ/no1_2014.pdf.

Russia and the Eurasian Union: Mission Impossible?

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ)
http://www.eufaj.eu

The Russian president Putin may be a political chess player, but he will fail at the very end. He wants to restore glory for his country, and therefore he undertakes a lot:
– blaming the Americans and the Europeans for anything which does not function in his country, including a growing authoritarianism and repression of non-violent opposition, including as well the stigmatisation as „foreign agents“ of any non-governmental organisation which has contacts abroad (and all open-thinking NGOs have them), and following a media policy which is absurd and where critical journalists often have to pay with their lives and health,
– gathering a lot of compliments from most of his compatriots after the conquest of Crimea, and the intended destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine – and in both cases the troops there turned out to be Russian ones, although this has been denied by Putin, who did not say the truth to the world.

This is why Russia is now isolated more than ever. Even China did not veto the trend of a discussion in the UN Security Council on 12.4.2014.

All the efforts by Putin go in this mentioned direction. It is to be crowned by the project of the „Eurasian Union“ which is to see the light of the world in 2015. Since his article in Izvestiya some years ago, it is evident that this Eurasian Union should become a kind of counterpart to the EU. No problem with this; the EU is very much in favour of regional integration in the world. And nobody in the EU or elsewhere would have anything against the Eurasian Union. However, this Project is not about economic or political Integration only. It will never be possible as an integration in the worldwide sense, alone as the EU has been a totally voluntary integration. The same for all other integrations in the world. The Eurasian Union, however, is definitely not: its predecessor and economic centerpiece, the Eurasian Customs Union is going bonkers — even if this is not seen by the protagonists. Consisting of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (all three beacons of democracy and human rights, as everybody knows), a lot of transborder operations go better with the help of corruption. I don’t want to mention the ranking in the Corruption Perception Index, as everybody also in Russia knows that there is still a lot of corruption in the administration. The customs tariffs are three times as high, on an average, as the import tariffs for new member countries: Armenia has either to raise its customs considerably, or get several hundred of exemptions, which makes a customs union ridiculous. Normally a customs union in economic history has always served to decrease customs, and not to increase! The Armenian government has been squeezed – under which circumstances ever – to welcome this and to tell its people that this would be a success. At the same time, newspapers write at the same page of many possible insolvencies of various sectors and drop-outs, which will lead to a continuation of the Armenian nightmare, the brain-drain by emigration. Every integration – see e.g. the accession of Spain, Portugal, Greece as well as Central and Eastern Europe to the EU – has led so far to a short to medium-term re-integration of former emigrants.

The biggest problem for Russia is her relations with Ukraine. Here every possible Eurasian Union member state can see at first hand, how they can be treated. No chance to hope that this can be changed: Russia has in all Eurasian structures since many years the absolute majority of votes. No way with a qualified majority, which in the EU can easily serve as an instrument of balancing the interests and of creating a compromise.

The result of the Crimea action has been to suspend Russia’s voting rights in the Council of Europe and to be subject of a negative assessment by the UN Assembly.

And nobody will invest at present in Russia, if he is mentally normal (except some big operators who are of strategic interest for Russia): The Moscow government had declared that it might confiscate foreign investmnt. This is against all rules, the rule of law, the rule of any international economy and above all the interests of Russia herself. Every small and medium enterprise will refrain from investing – and this in an era of positive globalization. Only a former KGB chief who never saw a company from inside can ride on such a wave. Russia is also dependent of its raw material and energy sales. The EU, including Germany, as main client are working since a while to diversify their purchases, a step which is getting momentum, and of developing alternative energy.

As the present macroeconomic trends indicate, Russia’s economy goes slowly but safely down, like the ruble currency, thus problemizing all foreign purchases which will be necessary also for domestic investment.

There are some people – like the author of these lines – who remember the hospitality, the fine humour, the philosophical discussions even with non-philosophers, the great nature, the food, the interesting history, the excellent education of Russian people. Their economy could become more and more efficient, corruption could go down, a numerous middle-class could emerge, Russians (all, not some) would go for holidays to the EU and worldwide, and will not flee their country, NGOs could form a vital civil society, art and music could thrive, and all problems could be discussed – why not controversially – and then solved in a free parliamentary vote. And the parliaments are correctly elected, and why not letting all parties admitted for this? Towards the outside, Russia could have excellent relations with its neighbours, with the EU (there are many years homework on what has been proposed and not done, like a free trade agreement etc.), with NATO, just to name some. In such a climate, NATO could become a historical structure – maybe with Russia as a member.

Instead of this, the former KGB chief in the Kremlin does not refrain from lying to the world, from attacking Crimea (at least. until tonight, 14.4.2014), and arresting many people who demonstrate against this in Moscow these days.

It is, simply speaking, ga-ga that at the beginning of the 21st century Russia, while all the others, or most of them, try to cooperate, falls back into the 19th century. If these ideas cannot convince the people (who should not behave like a flock of sheep), they feel a minority complex, manipulate the media and threaten other countries with tanks at their borders. They also are misled by this foreign activity from domestic and grave deficits. With this, the Eurasian Union will never function. It might be launched, but it will be a sick structure from the beginning – like many others who have been launched after 2001 in the former Soviet Union. There are brillant heads e.g. in the Eurasian Development Bank which is a kind of think-tank for regional integration and where many concepts for economic integration have been conceived. But in their concepts you do not read anything about the necessity of a free will of the member states to follow this integration. What their people have, the Russian government has not: sovereignty. The sovereignty to live and to let live. You should take it easy, Vladimir Vladimirowich. If you would, your people would also. But I have lost any hope that this is possible under your reign, although I am an eternal optimist. So drive your country to the beton wall, including following countries. Like the system of the USSR, this „Soviet 2.0“ system, although not under Communist auspices, will be rejected by a majority of People involved when they see the middle and Long-term results – first in the partner countries, then in Russia. By educated, young people who will see how dysfunctional their own system will be, also due to their Facebook and Twitter accounts and the Internet in general. Like the integration of the USSR, of Yugoslavia which both burst in bubbles. The result will always be smaller than the original. Because of this, perhaps for the sake of its own corruption?, the Moscow government will end up similarly, in the most positive way with four or five former and present European CIS countries in or near the EU, and Central Asia may later form a kind of integration themselves. It would, after all, need another and sympathetic leader in Moscow (not only to most of the Russians but also to the world) to break up this isolation and inefficiency.

Putin’s Russia: „Sorry, we have withdrawn our investment intentions“…

In context with the Crimea crisis the EU and US consider various sanctions. However, one kind of sanction will come – for sure – by the markets themselves, i. e. by thousands of big and small investors who until now have considered an investment to Russia.

First, investment is a huge global market. Every state, every region, every municipality dreams of big factories, hotels, company headquarters, or of small and medium sized companies‘ investment into their territories. So investors, who want to conquer another market or want to place a factory closer to their existing markets, also for service reasons, are pampered wherever they might be. It is no accident that very many states, regions or local governments run own offices or agencies in order to attract Investment, and some of them really do a good work. States or regions often have special laws with implicit positive discrimination of foreign investors.

Second, foreign direct investment makes a lot of sense: it brings new technologies, new ways of management, new jobs, new clients, and whoever is the investor also opens a bilateral trade runway between his own country and the investment destination. The WTO takes this into account with the TRIMs Agreement from 15.4.1994 (TRIMs = Trade-related investment measures), the WTO to which Russia acceded only recently. Of course, foreign direct investment may be restricted or excluded in sensitive fields (and Russia has a lot of them), but in principle Russia has less FDI than a „normal“ country, which should have – passively – around a third of the capital in foreign hands (and should also – actively – participate accordingly).

Third, investment decisions are not only a matter of figures, facts and data. Investment decisions are today for around 50% based on emotional Facts. A little town in French Vosges mountains got the Japanese factory because it is a nice region, a beautiful location, near rivers and lakes, near bigger cities, but otherwise like in a fairytale movie, with wild storks etc.. And the wife of a West German owner of a manufacture forced him not to go to Apolda/Thüringen but to Weimar, as this is culturally more interesting and the kids could go there in better schools, etc. After all, the investment destination must be sympathetic to the investor.

Russia has now a problem. In the discussion about sanctions and counter-measures and counter-counter measures, they said among others that it would not be excluded that in retaliating any sanctions Russia may confiscate foreign Investment. Russians who said this may not have worked at any time in any privately held shop or company, otherwise they would have known what immense damage this not too wise formulation brings. It brings … nothing, in the sense that then really nobody will invest anymore. I was advising a German medium-sized enterprise who was convinced to invest in tourism in Siberia. They wanted to acquire or build a lodge. Now came a phone call: „Sorry, we have withdrawn our investment intentions…“. Not because of Crimea, but because of the above mentioned phrase. This phrase has not been used by any of the EU institutions or member states – it would also hit the wrong. But by using this or having it used in an open way, Putin shows either that he does not care at all about the Russian economy, or does not know anything about economy, or both. He has just imposed the biggest sanction against himself, but also against his own people. Another „collateral“ damage in addition to the political and diplomatical damage because of his Crimea action.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal
http://www.eufaj.eu

The „Soviet Union 2.0“, the Crimea Peninsula, Ukraine and the EU

Whatever the news are and will be, whoever will have been the masked, uniformed people, the whole world looks and above all will look to the Crimea Peninsula and the South of Ukraine in the next days. It all depends how Putin will act or react – and it cannot be believed that what happened the last two days was a matter of some local commanders of the Russian Black Sea troops while he, Putin, did not know anything. He still tries to play the „good cop“, but nobody believes him anymore. Furthermore he might orchestrate a bigger operation than in Georgia, with Abkhasia and South Ossetia, in 2008, with revealing pictures repeating themselves in Crimea.
Since 1954, Crimea has been submitted by then Soviet Union to the Ukrainian authorities. In May 1992, the region was a punching ball between Russia, the Crimean parliament and Ukraine, with the result that it got a high degree of self-government. It became a kind of decentralised part of Ukraine, with an own constitution and a relatively high degree of self-government. While Russian President Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Kravchuk managed to divide the Soviet Black Sea fleet, Crimean Communists wanted an even more distinguished status of the Peninsula, which had at this time around 2 million of citizens (which decrease from year to year). The Crimean Parliament, however, anchored a clear phrase in the Constitution that the Peninsula was part of Ukraine.

Since this time there were numerous attempts in Crimea to be integrated into Russia and to leave Ukraine. In 2008, Russian passports have been given to Crimea residents, to create citizens to be protected then by Russia – at the same time when Russia did exactly the same in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which were until then provinces of Georgia. Unlike Georgia’s Saakashvili however, the new Ukrainian government will not be torn into a provocation by Russia.

It was evident that „something“ had to happen in the Crimea Peninsula, in which southern part the Russian Black Sea fleet is based. Nothing against this fleet (and most Ukrainians could also live with this), but the Russian action seems to be a clear act of aggression, as another country has partly been occupied now, as Russia has made a no-flight zone over the Crimea, and as light tanks and an army staff of at least 2.000 has been sent to the peninsula to „protect“ (or take) local strategic institutions. Sure, the Crimea has been populated always by a majority of ethnic Russians, and there are ten thousands of Crimea Tatars who came only back to their former residences on Crimea recently, after they have been sent by Stalin in the mid-1940s to Siberia or Central Asia. This population group, of Muslim belief, is committed to live in Ukraine.

Since some street riots, without the loss of lives (except one casualty due to a heart attack), since 26.2.2014 in Simferopol, the Russian president Putin has ordered more than 150.000 Russian troops near the Ukrainian border on alert. Evidently, Russian forces have occupied parts of the Ukraine, which is, to put it mildly, illegal. This is indicated also by flights of helicoter gunships over the Crimea, and the persons which were partly masked and without uniform signs have been Russians, according to local population. Maybe the whole coup is what Moscow wants – but it will have to calculate now with heavy political and probably also economic replies:

1. The Ukraine could cancel the Black Sea Agreement regarding the navy bases in Ukraine. Maybe there is no effect upon this, but the claims could be pursued by international tribunals, and this would contribute to a growing isolation of Russia, which has – in 2014, and not any more in Soviet Union or before, when these things have been undertaken frequently – revived unilaterally a kind of Cold War. Another of course than the one which was held on an ideological basis, but a Cold War not of the old Soviet Union, but of „Soviet Union 2.0“, which evidently is Putin’s Russia today.
2. There will be a heavy consequnce for any country where the possible accession to Putin’s invention, the Eurasian Union and even the Eurasian Customs Union, is considered. The hit to Crimea will cost a lot of credibility, and from now on, the Kremlin is on the defensive regarding this project.
3. It will drive Ukraine much faster into the European Union than foreseen, and it will also set free thoughts about integrating Ukraine into NATO – and this above all from Ukraine.
4. It may bring a further drop of economic relations between the EU and Russia, and therefore contribute to an ever more stagnating economy of Russia – which is one of the biggest problems of the future. Putin cannot, today, calculate any more with the capacity to suffer of the Russian People.
5.In this context, I want to advocate the abolition of visas between the EU and Russia. Thus, Russians can see how Europeans live, how they think, how the EU and the Member States‘ governments and parliaments work. This, and millions of personal contacts and talks will have a long-term effect on Russia.
6. There will be a middle-term effect of free speech in the Crimea. Until now, the Peninsula has been led by Russian propaganda which is considerably different to the facts.
7. We are not anymore in talks between Yeltsin and Helmut Kohl – these times are over. There is an ex-KGB Boss now running the Kremlin, and he clearly wants to create somehow a superpower glory like in Soviet times. This is possibly followed with the same means as in Soviet times, namely with lies, like what Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov said to John Kerry two times during a phone talk these days: that the territorial integrity of Ukraine will not be touched. This means clearly, that there cannot be any more trust and reliance in Russian declarations.
It is evident that the sagas of „fascists“ etc. who „took now power in Kiev“ are nonsense; These are people who wanted to get rid of Yanukovich who marched his own „Berkut“ police units and his secret service against protesters, who did on the long term not accept Yanukovich’s way of retiring from the EU, of accruing personal fortunes and of having a rude leadership, with big deficits in the rule of law and heavy corruption. It has been no miracle that exaggerated expressions of nationalism could grow in this climate, but the Ukrainians are, like all other Europeans who do appreciate that they can live under European values, no fascists. The yet existing democratic deficits can be wiped out easily and in a fast way – this was shown e.g. by the Maidan Council etc.
8. There will be on the next EU summit on 20./21.3.2014 the new government of Ukraine coming to the EU heads of state and government to sign the Association Agreement with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. This will induce, if not done already, payments of the EU, but wisely bound to reforms and to conditionality. Of course, this may bring problems for the Ukraine and its citizens as well, but only temporarily. The more open the UA government and parliament says this to its own people, the better. After all, this is a heritage from a Person who has cheated his people for millions and billions. It can be looked on the money laundering procedures not only in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, but probably also in other countries.
9. And last but not least, what Putin has done, arranged or accepted in Crimea must have a political, soft-power adequate reply. The EU is and will remain a soft power, in contrat to the Soviet Union 2.0 which is at present Russia – and where people who took part in anti-Putin protests 2 years ago were thrown up to 4 1/2 years to labour camp prison only one day after the Sotchi Winter Olympics ended. The power of weakness, or soft power, has always a longer breath than the weakness of power, or hard power. But above all, the EU has to follow now an articulate policy towards this kind of authoritarian, aggressive rulers in its environment. Doing nothing is no solution for the EU, and Putin and the UA government would be well advised, to settle the question of the Black Sea fleet – an Instrument of only regional and not of strategic importance – in a Guantanamo way, maybe with the rental agreement of a base on eternity“.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal

http://www.eufaj.eu

What the Association Agreement EU – Armenia Really Says And What It Means For The Economy

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka

The text of the Association Agreement (AA) and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between the EU and Armenia is still unknown to the grand public. However, it can be assumed that all agreements between the EU and the Eastern Partnership Member States will be very similar and even coincident in very many aspects.

The EU-Ukraine AA is known, at least from a draft version. It comprises more than 900 pages and has lots of provisions which refer to detailed trade issues, EU customs numbers, and many trade details. This AA is not only a new version of the old Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), but as a detailed document in particular for the economy even a roadmap to further EU integration. Although this was never spoken out, its finality could be in a number of years the logical step of the AA countries from the Eastern Partnership of an application to accession to the European Union. Armenia could feel to be stimulated to do exactly this, after some years, for economic and political reasons; the latter exactly then if Russia would follow in a linear way its present policy. Of course this then depends if Armenia would then still have any sovereignty at all. But the Customs Union in ist present form would turn out as a centrifugal solution for Armenia, whereas the EU Agreements would be of centripetal and concentric effect.

There are lots of tasks in approximation in these AAs – from extensive harmonization to safety rules for products (e.g. product safety, product liability, toys, electromagnetic appliances, pressure vessels etc.), company law (the EU Directives will have to be taken over, by a kind of „transposition“ very parallel to the EU), to general clauses like the common heritage as well as the one for European integration, and to many dozens of pages with lists for accepting geographical origins for food products, wines etc.

Whoever flies over this text will see that the Eastern Partnership countries will be sooner or later a part of the EU Singe Market, a huge market without borders and custom controls, with a lot of purchase power, and the idol of all other regional integrations in the world. The Eurasian Union has obtained the name „USSR 2.0“ – not without reasons, as Russia will always be the dominant power, and is already so in the Customs Union. It is still to short to give a final verdict about the Customs Union now, but it does not always funcitn well where it should – this also to some Soviet-style mentalities within the respective member states.

The mistake of the EU may be that it never boasts of this success – it is too modest. This can be understood, as it is no single state structure but one of cooperation and integration of now 28 Member States, of a structure which never had any tradition or history of imperialism or making other peoples its slaves. Its communication lines are targeted to the inside of the EU only, and then more to its mere functionalities. When it comes to military force, the EU can rely only on its Soft Power – not on any Hard Power; the EU has no army, but is dependent of cooperation between its Member States. Is it therefore weak? No, as its Soft Power can be defined as the power of weakness, and as Hard Power of someone else can be defined as the weakness of power. The power of weakness is its integration, the cohesion of its people when confronted with EU principles, and that it is self-evident to be now in the EU, which has created a period of peace among the Member States longer than at any time before in history, and we are not at the end of our history.

When Armenia and the EU trumpeted both on 24th July 2013, they were both happy to have finished the draft of their bilateral agreement, which may have between 800 and 900 pages. Six weeks later, all this was suddenly in vain, after one mere talk between the Armenian and the Russian presidents? It must be clear that this agreement of almost 1.000 pages cannot be have negotiated with the purpose of not being put into power. The absolute contrary was the case, and this almost for four years. This is what it makes evident that Armenia encountered some extraordinary pressure. This was on 11./12.7.2013 also exactly the subject of the famous Statement of Commissioner Stefan Füle and of a cross-party tabled resolution of the European Parliament – both very particular measures. But if one examines what has been said about Putin and Russian foreign policy before in many European Parliament articulations, there is one logical line, namely that the EU wants e.g. civil freedoms for Russian citizens like for its own. But this is not the place to argue about minority treatment, xenophobia, selective justice, and administrative corruption etc. in Russia.

Now some people from Armenia spoke recently to sign now anyway the Association Agreement, but not the DCFTA. One of the „Whereas“ indents says however,

„DESIROUS of achieving economic integration, inter alia through a Deep and
Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) as an integral part of this Agreement, in
compliance with rights and obligations arising out of the World Trade Organisation
(WTO) membership of the Parties, including through extensive regulatory
approximation;

which means clearly that the principal agreement will be the AA and then only as a secondary agreement the DCFTA (words underlined by the author). Therefore it may not be so easy to sign the AA only and not the DCFTA, without saying bye-bye to the project of the Eurasian Customs Union. The CU agreement does by far not go so deep in any approximation details and therefore in market integration (which, quantity-wise, would be to 165 mill. population of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, compared to the 520 mill. of the 28 EU and 3 EEA/EFTA Member States). With the AA, Armenia would be continuously reformed in a way that its economy would be competitive on the European and therefore on the world markets. I do have serious doubts if this would be the case with the CU – who keeps oligarch appearances meaning that the economy would not be exposed to a real competition (for which Armenian competition law will be further adjusted, also the whole intellectual property law), where strategic investments will be in very few Russian hands (railway, telecommunication, energy etc.), and where there is no external reform pressure on the economy. The latter means, that Armenian economy would not proceed as well as it would be the case with its relevant relations to the EU. These would, by the way, also for the first time in an international framework agreement for Armenia, include the protection of the environment, and social standards, and health and safety at the workplace – just to name a few.

The next indent of the AA:

„RECOGNIZING that such a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area, linked to the
broader process of legislative approximation, shall contribute to further economic
integration with the European Union Internal Market as envisaged in this Agreement“,

is nothing else what has been already written in the old PCA from 1996. Therefore this (new) AA has no impact on security etc. It leaves the finality to the respective countries, i. e. if they after some years want to join the EU as Member States, it will be their affair at first, as it was until now.
The truth behind all this seems to be that in particular Vladimir Putin is scared of the European model, which is defined in the articles 2 et al. of the EU-Treaty (Lisbon Treaty), with values like human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law, human rights, and a society based on pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice and solidarity, as well as equality between women and men. Of course, we all have to fight in the EU every day to keep these pillars of human existence – but Putin and his regime, although being more liberal than former Soviets, is committed to these things mainly in words, in legal articles, but certainly not always de facto. Whoever doubts this position – well, this would need another article. So, like Georgia, like Moldova, like Ukraine, the Armenian government should have made clear to Russia that its geographical position would drive it to be an excellent bridge between Russia and the European Union, and that being in the same security alliance does not bother it to keep this bridge function (there is no other security alliance in the world which demands of its member countries to come into a customs union).

What scares me even more than the position of the Armenian president, who might not be the most gifted economist on earth, is that from his own parliamentary group, the Republican Party, came no big objection, not even a thorough discussion about the whole scheme, but only justifications „sans justificatif“. Is this a consecration army without any autonomous will – like it exists in all other free parliaments? Is there really a parliamentary majority in Armenia who swallows this without any discussion? Some people in the EU say, if so, Armenia can join „USSR 2.0“, and the European Union will wave good-bye. It is indeed a matter of political culture that a parliamentary majority group discusses this thoroughly. The first signs, however, were not very encouraging. And, by the way, we now „interfere“ in other countries‘ politics – there is no domestic policy any more anywhere, but so far this was not be heard anywhere. At least this!

After all, there are still some options for Armenia. Austria was under a likewise pressure from the Soviet Union between 1986 and 1994, but it resisted. I took part in many discussions in this country at that time, when some Russian generals or deputy ministers – who in every democracy keep their mouth in the domain of foreign policy of other countries who do not directly threaten theirs – expressed themselves in the usual, rude way. Let them bark, again – this is good for the lungs. Armenia could have – and still can – made her security concerns to the object of a debate within the EU. As she agrees to the OSCE Minsk Group principles, it could be easy to launch also an EU debate on this basis. After all, nobody from the EU provides Azerbaijan with weapons worth several billions of euro.
Some day – and not too far in the future – it must be clear that also the European Union will have elements of a common foreign policy (it starts with elements, yes), and that the EU will not have a too-Christian attitude to offer the left cheek if it gets a slap on its right cheek. The EU can also withdraw its face, what nobody wants right now (out of Moscow). The President of Armenia should verify once more, if he wants to become totally incredible and incomprehensible, or if he really steers his country through a possible rough sea. This should go together with a creative diplomacy: towards the possible „double-pack“ neighbour Georgia, to Turkey, to Russia, to the other Eastern Partnership countries, and regarding also Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, too. In these contexts, Armenia is well advised to delegate as much as possible to its civil society which is always more accepted than any government initiative.

Armenia is after all not yet „lost“, but it is not five, but two minutes before High Noon.

Putin’s Euro-Asian Initiative and Armenia’s „No“

On the eve of the visit of NATO SG to Armenia

The Euro-Asian Union is an initiative proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that many perceive as an attempt to revive the Soviet Union – a communist country removed from the world map almost two decades ago. Perhaps that’s in vain… Hardly a person once serving in Soviet KGB could have that much problems with adequate apprehension of the reality – to assume possible the recreation of the Soviet Union or any of its patterns whether in Europe or Asia. It can rather be expected from a KGB officer to use his public acts and steps as a veil for solving pragmatic tasks behind the scene, for achieving “program minimum” in course of stating about “program maximum”.

Battle for Kazakhstan

Independently of the geographical latitudes where the Russian officials state about the Euro-Asian Union, despite the quantity of continents they unite in that virtual union – marking boundaries in air – the core idea and target of Euro-Asian Union is the preservation of Kazakhstan within the orbit of Russian influence.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, once nicknamed “the purple sultan”, remarkably succeeded to lead his country to prosperity and increasing international engagement, turning Kazakhstan into a kind of powerhouse in the Central Asian region. Today one may witness the presence of Western capital and giant companies in Kazakhstan, the advancement of the Russian ground space station and cultural, scientific interrelations there, as well as the broadening influence of Far-Eastern giants’ – with China’s leading progression.

The Western presence in Kazakhstan hardly ever worried Russia much. That presence has little potential to go beyond the financial-economic sphere in the large – both by geographic and civilization affiliations. Kazakhstan lies far away from Europe. Meanwhile the increasing influence of China – involving at once financial-economic, political and migration dimensions – is obviously another opera.

If China’s financial and economic advancement in Africa is sufficient to bother the European Union, then how much worried must get Russia in face of China’s expansion in Central Asia – escorted with migration and political instruments. Such course may once end up with geographical enlargement of China – maybe reflecting in establishment of some kind of commonwealth of the Central Asian states.

The successive transference of Kazakhstan into the zone of China’s influence is still the partial misfortune of Russia. The full misfortune is that Russia is a material empire without spiritual impetus and the peoples inhabiting the Russian Siberia – with their small and large autonomies – glance not only at Moscow. The Chinese influence in Kazakhstan sooner or later will have projection on Russian Siberia.

Life is what we think of it

At some point in future the NATO initiative of a defense shield “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” may factually turn into guarantee of Russia’s territorial integrity. Still what is noticeable for the moment is the repetition of the story. Just alike to the first decade of the new millennium when Russia almost walked out of Europe and the advancing NATO established itself along the Russia’s entire European border, a decade later Russia seemingly gets to depart from the Central Asia and the Far-Eastern giants will further expand their influence along the Russia’s southern border.

Likewise a decade ago Mr. Putin succeeded to award the Russians an imitative sense of powerfulness, thanks to the Chechnya war and the permanent loss of influence in Europe passed relatively unnoticeable for the Russians, now the same scenario is under examination: the initiative of the Euro-Asian Union and the imitative developments around it will allow Russia to fight its interests in Central Asia and in case of failure at least to step back painlessly and imperceptibly for the Russian society. Mr. Putin obviously succeeds to neutralize the essence of events through their staged appearance.

Remarkably realizing the game, Kazakhstan herself erects the main obstacle and complexity on the way of formation of the Euro-Asian Union. President Nazarbayev declared with full clarity that the Euro-Asian Union is a format of economic cooperation only that can’t and doesn’t pursue a goal of political uniting. The formation created in sake of involving Kazakhstan hardly can disregard or oppose Kazakhstan’s stance.

NATO Secretary General’s visit instead of Euro-Asian Union developments

Kazakhstan’s discord to political unification marks almost a fiasco to Russian aspirations of Euro-Asian political union. Here Russia hardly nourishes illusions; now she rather disseminates illusions to achieve some psychological pression and effect in the countries she’d like to get in that union.

Seemingly the last was the aim of Russian propaganda throughout July-August 2012 when primarily several high-ranking Russian political emissaries arrived to Armenia and made statements about the Euro-Asian Union, then on the eve of the Armenian President’s visit to Russia scheduled on 8th August 2012, the Russian mass-media endlessly and persistently reported about Armenia’s principal consent to join the Euro-Asian Union that had to be declared on the meeting of the Armenian and Russian Presidents.

Armenia doesn’t possess a common border with any member of the Euro-Asian Customs Union (Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan), therefore Armenia’s involvement into this customs club – claiming to transform into Euro-Asian Union – would de facto attach political appearance to economic formation, balancing at surface the Kazakhstan’s “no” to the political union.

The visit of the Armenian President to Moscow planned for August 8, surely took place. The Kremlin and the Presidential Palace of Armenia issued press releases, even a joint press conference was held… still as it should be expected despite all the noise raised by mass media the Euro-Asian Union wasn’t even mentioned. Furthermore it didn’t become even clear what was the topic touched at the meeting of Presidents or not.

If the theme was discussed then obviously Armenia hadn’t obeyed to summons and pressure of Russia to join the Euro-Asian Union, like in 2008 when Armenia dismissed the Russian demands to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the Russia-Georgian military confrontation. Then Armenia argued that she hasn’t recognized even the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh – the Armenian enclave separated from Azerbaijan and declared independent some 20 years ago. Now Armenia argues that she doesn’t possess any common border with any country of Euro-Asian Customs Union, intending to transform into Euro-Asian Union.

The arguments are interpretation of reality but they are rather reflection of will. Probably that will was demonstrated by Armenia and thanks to that the noise around Armenia’s possible joining to Mr. Putin’s Euro-Asian initiative calmed down. Moreover still in the beginning of summer there was announcement that Mr. Putin will pay an official visit to Armenia in September. But the September arrived with another news – the Secretary General of NATO is paying visit to Armenia on September 5-6 – some symbolism that speaks for itself.

Lusine Petrosyan*

* Lusine Petrosyan is an Armenian journalist. In 2012 she was nominated for UNESCO Guillermo Cano Prize by Thomson Foundation (UK). The nomination was made to mark the efforts she made in legal confrontation with the former President of Armenia R. Kocharyan, after the President personally filed a lawsuit against her article in 2011. After Lusine’s year long fight engaging the EU, OSCE officials and the Armenian Ombudsman new commentaries on the Armenian defamation law were issued by the country’s Constitutional Court that obliged even the former President to refrain from monetary demands and offer conciliation. In February 2012 Lusine moved into politics and joined the Heritage party.  In June 2012 she became a Board member of the Party, and presently takes the position of the Coordinator of Party Headquarters (Heritage is an oppositional Parliamentary party, one of three Armenian parties having joined the European Peoples‘ Party – EPP).

Pussy Riots – and when will be the end of Putin?

This afternoon – 17.8.2012 – the three members of the Russian Punk Band „Pussy Riots“ have been sentenced to a 2 year prison punishment which is clearly unproportional, and displays to the whole world an unacceptable Russian way of the Rule of Law. It was transmitted live by European TV stations (many media people are somehow independent internally, and above all: the TV live broadcast is a tool of surfacial transparency, normally injuring the private sphere of people involved, but one can discuss about this). The pictures included the security glass cage and the handcuffs for the accused trio (whom did they threaten?) which is clearly a tool of intimidation – the girlie group had massacred or threatened nobody. The way how the sentence has been read by the district court judge spoke also for itself, not to mention the content of what she said. There has been and will be written enough, without doubt, about this and the previous criminal court sessions. In the EU all this would have induced, if at all, maybe a kind of „clap on the ass“ or an infraction fine of 100, maybe 200 or 300 EUR – as I mentioned, if at all, because one can argue very well that their performance in the Moscow church is covered by the freedom of art performance. In Germany and other EU countries, for the ladies who have never been before a court until now, no session would have been necessary, just a written procedure.

I would rather like here to mention some long-term developments in Russia. Of course, after the Orthodox Church of Russia has pleaded an hour after the sentence for mercy, without doubt President Putin will in maximum some months issue an act of  grace (which is totally unwanted by the Pussy Riots). As their flame will remain in the world and will threaten to increase, he will have no other choice. This will be his big show, when the person attacked in an artistic way will forgive them publicly.

What is behind? Putin plays the Strongman now, because it is expected and, on the other hand, also necessary in his view. The denunciations in the famous video from mid-August 2012 and the discussions of the generals, all hitting towards Medvedev and his role as cunctator before the Russian-Georgian war indicate this clearly. It is necessary as this is the only way to preserve a certain popularity, which also includes a dangerous polarization of Russian society. In the time of Internet news, of international blogging, the Kremlin (well, the official one) sees the only way for the survival of some people (who by the way made a lot of money, compared to the average European politician!) in restrictions for the free press, sometimes in a tolerated passivity of public enquirers in cases of personal injury of even death of critical journalists, in harsh sentences towards artists, in curbing the freedom of assembly for opposition politicians, etc. There were, are and will be complimentary voices against „the West“, the USA, the EU etc.

In fact, while Russia still has a big corruption problem which prevents many investment of mainly small and medium-sized enterprises, it also has a problem with a lot of politicians who are formally capable for dialogue but basically „constipated“ when it comes to the Rule of Law and to Human Rights. As an EU citizen, I must here apologize for the EU’s position in the visa question; normally the EU would have abolished the compulsory visa – but this is mainly due to the Russian government. I am sorry that at present and still the people of a whole country are suffering what could be done with a signture, but I fully understand the EU and the Member States that they are not (yet) ready to do this. The human rights issue and, I am sorry, a sometimes flashing Soviet-style of politics which then reminds of passed times which should be over now but are not, all this slows down the set-up of our relations and many activities.

The Russian society is not yet an Open Society, in the sense of Karl Popper, for example – there may be only 20-40% of the citizens (depending of the criteria) under this definition. My dream is a Russia, that discusses (really, not only announcing)  lots of economic interfaces, that never makes problems with any gas deliveries and therefore is a reliable partner (also for Ukraine and the countries behind), that leads an open, self-critical discussion in the education field, in short which is not tempted by any nationalism – as it is the case in grosso modo in the EU. A Russia which is not any more corrupt than the average of the EU Member States, which has a modernized administration, a functioning competition policy and is fully compliant with WTO provisions. A Russia with a functioning democracy, following the Rule of Law and Human Rights, with a really independent jurisdiction, having not any more a record number of pending cases before the European Court of Human Rights. A Russia with a society which reflects, as in the EU, the whole pluralism of human beings, and where sometimes there may be a government crisis, a parliament deadlock, a media scandal, an economic problem, or an argument between the state and the (orthodox) church – like in the European Union. Why not, nobody is perfect. Then the EU will turn out to be a great partner, for business, for policies, press will report in full transparency and in full access to everyone, we will discuss openly about history, we will both regret some spots out of that, we will then think also about our common international interest, and then indeed many new, additional agreements can be concluded. When we all try to be less a pain in the posterior of our citizens, not only in the EU but also in Russia, we would come a bit closer to paradise on earth; only a bit of course (and I don’t say this because of the Russian Orthodox Church).

But Russia must first become a country with a strong civil society. This is just tried to be prevented by some state institutions which equal an NGO worker who has contacts with other NGOs abroad as „foreign agent“; this has a very special meaning in Russia, from history. And other examples can be added – from a new legislation which is enacted in the last months only.

Russia needs a decided reformer – a real task for what could be called opposition. But the oppositon which should be a strong one in any democracy is kept in a status of fragmentation and disintegration – from inside and of course from outside. This is not an eternal phenomenon, however. And although there was a lot of cheating, the last elections showed that even the President needs some „additional means“ to preserve his power. Even if he did not need this to obtain 50% + 1 votes. So Russia needs a decided reformer, although the majority of people there wants a strongman, a nationalist, partly even some militarism. It will take a political generation, 10 until 15 years. Plus or minus some  years, of course. The Pussy Riots were ahead a lot of time, like many other people who demonstrated with impatience. As a European democrat, who wants also a real democracy in the countries around the EU and has worked for many years herefore, I can only join this band, and make a prayer that Putin goes rather sooner than later. This would contribute to the development of Russian society, economy and the chance for a decent stand in international politics. And I do not want to express myself now on Russia’s cruel position towards the people who have been killed, injured, threatened or forced to flee in their own country by Assad’s troops and ad-hoc troops in the Syrian Civil War of 2012.

And a last promise: As long I am responsible for EUFAJ, I will take a much stronger accent on human rights as originally intended – and this not only in Russia, but also in the surrounding countries. For example in Belarus where dropping teddy bears from a Swedish aircraft has led to the expulsion of an ambassador from an EU Member State. The task of this ambassador was to argue in favour of democracy, pluralism and fair and free elections. All these subjects are a much more suitable framework for a functioning social market economy which fulfils the needs of the people, and which lacks also in the country mentioned.

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal