‘The World Today Is Non-Polar, And We All Depend on Each Other’
On February 26, Markus Ederer, Ambassador of the European Union to the Russian Federation, spoke at the HSE on ‘Russia and the EU: The Present State of Affairs’. The lecture was organized by the HSE International Students' Association together with the EU Delegation to Russia.
At present, any conversation on EU-Russia relations inevitably comes down to Ukraine, but Markus Ederer began his lecture at HSE on a positive note. He explained that, economic relations between the EU and Russia are ‘almost second to none’. The European Union remains Russia’s largest trading partner. Last year, EU-Russia trade increased by 20–25%, while companies from the EU continue to be biggest investors in Russia, accounting for more than 70% of total direct foreign investment. ‘Economically, we are doing fine. And what we're also still doing pretty well in are our people-to-people exchanges’, the Ambassador added.
Russians are the biggest group to receive Schengen visas every year with approximately 20% of all Schengen visas being issued to Russians. Moreover, Russian students make up the majority of recipients of Erasmus+ scholarships. ‘This is excellent’, said Markus Ederer to the students. ‘I believe that people of your age need to travel abroad. It's important to feel like a foreigner as a young person, because then you have more tolerance for foreigners in your own country. It’s important to be able to put yourself into somebody else's shoes, to understand each other. And even if we can’t agree with each other, it’s important that we at least understand where others are coming from’.
Differences between the EU and Russia escalated by the Ukraine crisis and led to mutual sanctions. According to Markus Ederer, we can’t just turn the page and get back to ‘business as usual’. The implementation of the Minsk agreements remains crucial for finding a solution to the Donbass conflict and establishing peace. This is also a pre-requisite for lifting of EU’s sanctions.
Ambassador Ederer doesn’t believe that the existing differences between the EU and Russia will miraculously disappear, but he emphasized the importance of enhancing cooperation in the fields where the sides have mutual interests, such as fight against international terrorism, climate change, illegal migration, nuclear non-proliferation and science cooperation. However, one should not disregard the perturbed due to well-known reasons relations between Russia and the United States. ‘If this relationship continues to deteriorate, I think we will all suffer, including Europeans’, Markus Ederer said.
The Ambassador believes that countries should avoid a new arms race at all costs. And while relations between NATO and Russia are ‘less than optimal’, Markus Ederer believes that better military-to-military contacts would contribute to building confidence and trust. ‘Uniforms don't like to talk to ties, they prefer talking to uniforms,’ he said.
Mr. Ambassador believes that, unlike the Cold War period, the world today is a non-polar world, with many players and many powers. He explained, ‘It is a world where we all depend on each other, nobody can go alone.’
From February 25 to March 2, HSE’s Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs hosted an academic module of the University Consortium, an inter-regional training programme for outstanding students that aims to promote mutual understanding, balanced analysis, and genuine dialogue among the US, EU, and Russia.