The Largest in History French-Russian Scientific Conference
On October 28th and 29th, the French-Russian Scientific Conference ‘Economy, Politics, Society: New Challenges and Opportunities’ took place at the Higher School of Economics and brought together 250 Russian and 150 French participants. The forum was the largest scientific meeting in the history of French-Russian relations.
The Conference was organized by the Higher School of Economics together with a consortium of French universities including Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and Paris West Nanterre la Défense with the support of the French Embassy in Russia and as part of the Year of Russia in France and that of France in Russia.
The plenary session was opened by HSE Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov, who spoke about the collaboration between the Higher School of Economics and French educational and research centers. ‘France is our closest, and I can say, favourite partner. French professors have given us invaluable help in the development of undergraduate courses in economics, management and law’ – Yaroslav Kuzminov said. The HSE has been working with France for 17 years, and during this time about 200 HSE graduates have received French master’s degrees in more than 25 joint research and educational projects with French universities. In 2002 a joint doctoral programme was launched: 6 people have already defended theses under joint French-Russian supervision, and 10 more are continuing their work in France.
The HSE administration supports the study of French language, the broadening of student exchange programmes with French universities, and the current conference has become the largest event within recent memory, and the biggest scientific conference in the history of French-Russian relations: it has brought together 250 Russian and 150 French participants.
Alexander Zhukov, Deputy Chair of the RF Government, in his welcoming address spoke about cooperation between the two countries in both the economic and social spheres. The Year of Russia in France and France in Russia provides a vivid demonstration of deep historical ties, mutual empathy and joint trade and economic interests .
‘France is our most promising business partner; the volume of French investments in Russia in 2009 was about 10 billion dollars – Alexander Zhukov said. – It is satisfying that today we cooperate in high tech spheres, such as aviation, space, medicine, transport as well as housing and utility services. The Sukhoi SuperJet-100 airplane was created and high-speed train connections between Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Nizhniy Novgorod were launched with the participation of French companies.’
Marie Mas du Puy, Minister Counselor of the French Embassy in Russia, also welcomed the conference participants. She emphasized the importance of the strategic partnership between France and Russia and stressed the relevance of the topics in the conference programme. In her view, the conference is further evidence of the strength of ties between Russian and French people, and proves their eagerness for international cooperation.
Following this, Evgeniy Yasin, HSE Academic Supervisor, and Christian de Boissieu, President of the Council for Economic Analysis under the Prime Minister of the French Republic, delivered scientific reports. Both of them were dedicated to an analysis of reasons and possible consequences of the world financial and economic crisis.
The plenary session ended with a speech by the President of the French-Russian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Emmanuel Quidet, who told the audience about the work of French companies in Russia. According to the speaker, the still remaining negative attitude towards Russia is an obstacle to developing economic relations between France and Russia. The crisis has certainly influenced business activity, French companies have stopped investing abroad, and only in Russia have investments remained at their previous level. According to Emmanuel Quidet, everyone understands that Russia is the largest car market in Europe. That’s why Peugeot and Renault are trying to maintain their position. Cooperation in power and trade industries is also developing. Particularly, the Auchan network is developing in Russia with a pace that is long gone in Europe and will probably never return.
Of course, the investment climate in Russia is far from ideal. There are many problems with taxation and interpretation of law. Bureaucracy and corruption also hinder active cooperation. On this matter Quidet jokingly said that ‘bureaucracy was invented in Russia, and brought to perfection in Russia’. But today, in his view, the situation is changing, and the investment climate is becoming more healthy. ‘I believe that Russia will be the driver of growth in Europe. Today it is bad manners not to do business in Russia’ - Emmanuel Quidet said.
After the break, the conference work continued in 19 sections ranging from economics, management and law to philosophy, sociology and communications. During the two days of October 28th and 29th, experts, professors, researchers, officials and businessmen of the two countries discussed the most topical research issues, starting from macroeconomic policy, institutional economics and the economics of knowledge and innovations, and finishing with the implementation of administrative reform, public service reform and the challenges facing the economy during the financial crisis. All problems were considered in the context of building the innovations economy and knowledge society as a basis for the sustainable development of society.
Andrey Shcherbakov, HSE News Service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk