‘We Should Reach a Compromise’
On October 27th Claude Blanchemaison, Honorary Professor of the HSE, Professor at the Paris-Dauphine University, and former French Ambassador to Russia, delivered an open lecture for the students of the Higher School of Economics.
The lecture, organized by the HSE Center for Cooperation with France and French-speaking Countries and the Embassy of France in Russia, was dedicated to reviewing the current problems of the European Union and coincided with Claude Blanchemaison being made an HSE honorary professor.
Prof. Blanchemaison’s meeting with the HSE students took place only a couple of hours after an historic EU summit in Brussels, where European leaders made some key decisions concerning Europe’s financial future. In particular, the capacity of the European Financial Stability Facility was increased to one trillion euro, private banks were advised to increase their assets in general capital, and European banks agreed to write off half of the state obligations issued by Greece thus decreasing the country’s debt.
The problems of Greece, Spain and Italy are today the focus of attention of European financial authorities. There is much speculation on Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone, but Prof. Blanchemaison believes this scenario to be impossible, since it will lead to disasterous consequences for Greece. At the same time, the single European currency seems to him to be overvalued compared to the U.S. dollar. Despite the debt crisis, the euro’s exchange rate remains high which damages the competitive ability of European exports.
According to Claude Blanchemaison, the recent Brussels summit was a response to EU critics who blamed European leaders for their inability to react to the crisis and make responsible decisions. But how did Europe, which has been a relatively safe haven over the last thirty years, become the focus of a new wave of the economic crisis?
Everything that is taking place in the EU today, according to Prof. Blanchemaison, is a kind of bill for past success. The EU, which grew from coal and steel agreements between France and Germany and which had the main task of preventing a new war in Europe happening, became a ‘distributor’ of democracy on the continent, providing relatively equal economic and social development for most of its members and increasing Europe’s authority on the international scene. At the same time, EU critics believe that Brussels has become a huge bureaucratic machine which is only interested in defending its own interests, not the interests of the European countries. ‘This is both true and false’ the former ambassador diplomatically remarked.
It is true that many Europe’s partners prefer not to deal with Brussels, but with Berlin, London and Paris, through direct negotiations with the governments of leading European countries. But Claude Blanchemaison believes that the EU structure itself teaches politicians from different countries not to battle, but to come to agreements with each other. ‘One of the most important EU achievements is the creation of a culture of searching for compromise’, the HSE honorary professor believes. ‘Our points of view are sometimes different, but we have a duty to continue dialogue and reach a compromise. Is it possible to broaden this culture to other systems of international affairs? We say it is.’
In his lecture Claude Blanchemaison also spoke about the future of the EU’s cooperation with Russia: here both sides have a much greater scope for interaction than merely the supply and consumption of hydrocarbons. Professor Blanchemaison believes collaborations in technology to be mutually profitable, one of the examples of which is the start of Russian Soyuz rockets launches from the Kourou spaceport in French Guiana which belongs to the European Space Agency.
‘We mutually complement each other, and on this basis we should build a new structure for our strategic partnership’, Claude Blanchemaison concluded.
Oleg Seregin, HSE News Service
Photos by Nikita Benzoruk
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