Author: Fabrizio Vielmini – 15/11/2021
The 14th Eurasian Economic Forum of Verona: Towards a New Global Order through a Greater Eurasian Partnership
Specialist of Russia and Central Asia, Research Fellow at Vision & Global Trend – International Institute for Global Analyses
At the end of October, Verona hosted the 14th edition of the Eurasian Economic Forum. Through the years, the event has grown into an important platform of dialogue between the countries of the former Soviet bloc and those of the EU. More than 80 speakers addressed participants from 28 countries. Among them, the ex-chancellor of Germany, Gerhard Schroeder, former Prime Minister of Italy and EU Commission President, Romano Prodi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Mohammad Ben Abdel Rahman Al Thani, Energy Minister of India, Hardeep Puri, the Chief of Rosneft, the leading Oil Company of Russia, Igor Sechin, and several high representatives of Russian diplomacy.
In this dialogue, Italy plays at best its historical role of a bridge between Russia and Europe, a mission that is very much needed in the critical moment that our civilisation is encountering navigating through a global systemic crisis. This was expressed by the main organizer of the forum, Professor Antonio Fallico, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Banca Intesa and President of the Discover Eurasia Association, a key figure in the Italian-Russian relations. In his intervention, Prof. Fallico clearly explained how the main problems of our world, including the enduring pandemics, are a result of the longtime dominant neoliberal model with its absolute faith in the myth of deregulated markets and unlimited private profit. Other keynote Italian speakers added to this picture. Fabio Tamburini, the director of “II Sole 24 Ore”, the main financial newspaper of Italy, opened the forum stating that “today’s world is completely broken and fragmented”. The pandemic only exacerbated a pre-existing situation of internal divisions and disagreements among the Western countries and within them between the national elites. “There is a crisis of the political picture in the main European countries and a crisis of leadership, which applies to all European countries,” Tamburini said.
The honorary president of the Intesa Sanpaolo group, Giovanni Bazzoli, warned that the world is on the brink of potential disaster. “The problems and challenges indicate that we are experiencing one of the most dangerous moments in the history of mankind,” he explained. We are talking about such risks as irreversible destruction of the environment and new waves of mass migration due to the difference in the welfare of the regions of the world. Worse, taking into account the energy crisis growing against this background, the participants of the XIV Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona spoke openly about the end of capitalism as we have known it until now.
At the level of international relations, the unilateral actions of the USA and other countries in recent years have seriously challenged the very foundations of international legal world order depriving the international community of the multilateral instrument necessary to join forces in front of the advancing chaos.
This should be recognized and overcome stressed Antonio Fallico. “We can only emerge from the current systemic crisis with a multipolar alliance, recognizing the interests and the economic and geopolitical role of each country. To overcome the current economic model and at the same time ensure security and prosperity for our planet, it is absolutely necessary to actively involve Greater Eurasia from the Atlantic to the Pacific.”
As already affirmed by the participants of two other major international fora of this 2021 year, the St. Petersburg and the Eastern Economic Forum, the political and business elite in Verona discussed the project of a Greater Eurasian Partnership involving all the countries of the continent between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.The main driving force towards this objective is the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the trade and investment bloc constituted by Russia together with Kazakhstan, Byelorussia, Kirghizstan, and Armenia. This is the second-largest economic association in the world after the EU. By expanding the partner network around itself through new agreements on free trade zones, as well as by purposefully investing in transport infrastructure, the EAEU creates a comfortable environment for international trade across the huge expanses connecting the EU with East Asia. The EAEU countries also animate together with China the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The intensification of the interaction of Russia, India, China and other countries of Central and Southeast Asia around this platform demonstrates of the seriousness the Eurasian potential.
At the same time, the idea of Great Eurasian Partnership (GEP) is not an alternative or counterbalance to the European Union. It is rather a proposal for the long-term and effective development of economic trends emerging in the Eurasian space. A project that relies on business diplomacy, as well as expanding the space of trust from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Russia and its allies in the EAEU see the future Greater Eurasia as a network of regional organizations, national strategies, free trade zones, economic corridors, transport routes, pipelines, digital communications and other transcontinental projects that would develop in a coordinated manner in line with the concept of “integration of integrations” in the interests of regional peace, security and prosperity. There are many options to explore for expanding the network of free trade zones, routes of transport and logistics corridors, reducing the number of customs borders, so that to allow the Western end of Eurasia, that is, the European Union, with the Pacific edges.
The force of the GEP concept is its capacity to loom far larger than the economy. First of all, the GEP implies an alternative geopolitical architecture for the greater concentration of human and capital resources on earth. Furthermore, this partnership’s idea suggests alternative philosophical foundations for international interaction, based on a vision of balanced conservatism and, simply speaking, common sense. The values of the Greater Eurasian Partnership are in line with the basic norms and principles of international law. This is critically important, since US unilateralism has shaken the world coexistence. On the opposite, through the EAEU and the other fora where Russia cooperates with China and the other Asia powers, we see the affirmation of values of international equality and justice. The tasks proclaimed by the Greater Eurasian Partnership and the means of their solution reflect the aspirations of hundreds of millions of inhabitants of the continent and the political aims of most the capitals of the Eurasian countries. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the idea of joint construction of a Greater Eurasia is in line with the specifics of the historical moment that this gigantic part of the world is experiencing today.
All in all, the Great Eurasian Partnership is a search for a common denominator between existing regional and national programs and development plans and the creation on this basis of a platform for constructive cooperation. It is based on the conviction that the neoliberal model of development should be abandon so that to explore new synergies between different alternative strategies. For this, the leaders of the countries of Eurasia should have a platform for an equal and mutually respectful dialogue, where freely discuss the prospects for economic development of a common space and agree on steps that would benefit everyone.
To work towards these high goals, there is much work to be done in Italy and other EU countries. Italian business should be better informed about these ongoing processes. Italian and EU expert communities and media should pay more attention to the situation in Eurasia and the integration processes taking place there.