“Tango” on the European stage: How can Russia and Europe become better partners?

Russian-European relations have been discussed at the 11th Gaidar Forum at RANEPA. During a discussion of the potential Greater Europe development and its interaction with other regions on the planet on the first day of the forum, the experts examined the prospects for cooperation within a single European framework, as well as tools for overcoming differences in the current geopolitical context.

Russia and Europe have accumulated a diverse experience of cooperation; the experts analyzed the causes and prerequisites for the current international situation in various areas including security, the economy and humanitarian problems. One of the key questions was in what direction countries should move for more effective interaction. Giles Merritt, the Founder and Chairman of the Friends of Europe independent think-tank, moderated the discussion. He noted that Russia and Europe should think not only about the political aspects of cooperation, but also about jointly addressing problems such as climate change, overpopulation, as well as industry and business issues.

Igor Yurgens, Member of the Management Board of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, reflected on the future of European capitalism, which, in his words, should be able to unite everyone. “There are many challenges on the outside perimeter of Greater Europe; there are conflicts that require closer cooperation between us. This cooperation is slowly being established, even though we are struggling through it, but we have practically no alternative in the future – Europe needs to determine its independent attitude to what will happen in Asia, America, Africa,” the expert said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko highlighted the current problems in the new political reality and called for abandoning ideology preferences for the benefit of common goals: “The old historical centers of geopolitical and economic influence are as determined as ever to maintain their former positions in the face of internal and external challenges. They are making unilateral protectionist decisions, using a wide range of isolationist tools, and unfair competition policies. They prefer to rely on sanctions and political and informational pressure rather than on cooperation and coordination of efforts.” According to Grushko, Russia is now busy with a whole scope of tasks: digitalization of the economy, introducing artificial intelligence, development of 5G and the green agenda and many more. These new realities must certainly be taken into account when building an international dialogue.

Giulio Tremonti, former Italian Minister of Economy and Finance (1994–1995, 2001–2006, 2008–2011), noted the excessive bureaucratization of Europe. He also urged Europeans to end the confrontation and think about how to build relations with Russia and China. EU Ambassador to Russia Markus Ederer said resolving a number of existing problems through international law should provide a platform for developing constructive relations. Wolfgang Schüssel, who was Chancellor of Austria in 2000–2007 and Minister of the Interior in 2007, suggested Russia take part in EU peacekeeping missions and become, for example, a major exporter of fresh water. This kind of cooperation could improve relations, he said.

RIAC Director General Andrei Kortunov agreed with his colleagues and suggested turning to less politicized areas where the potentials of Russia and Europe would harmoniously complement each other. “Although the world is moving towards bipolarity, this does not mean that we should be outside viewers just watching the superpowers ‘tango’,” the expert said.

Other experts taking part in the discussion included Fyodor Lukyanov, Editor-in-Chief, Russia in Global Affairs magazine; Valentina Komleva, Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Regional Studies and Regional Administration, Institute of Public Administration and Civil Service, RANEPA; Franco Bruni, Vice-President, Institute for International Political Studies of Italy; and Daniel Tarschys, Professor at the Stockholm University, Secretary General of the Council of Europe (1994–1999). They also considered other important topics such as the visa dialogue, development of international small business, the United States’ and China’s participation in the political debate as key players; and optimization of educational tools for Russian and European youth.

The dialogue was held in a constructive manner: all participants agreed that the meeting has shown a positive and consolidating trend in Russian-European relations. However, according to Giles Merritt, the discussion between representatives of major international think tanks needs to be more intensive.


The 11th Gaidar Forum, Russia and the World: Challenges of the New Decade, held at the Presidential Academy on January 15 and 16, 2020, focuses on discussing national and global development goals and finding practical answers to the most pressing challenges of our time. The forum is attended by Cabinet ministers of the Russian Federation, members of the Federal Assembly, governors of Russian regions, major international experts, and representatives of foreign states.

11th Gaidar Forum Organizers:

The Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA);
The Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy (Gaidar Institute);
The Association of Innovative Regions of Russia (AIRR).

Forum partners:

General partners: Gazprom, Gazprombank. Strategic partners: Coca-Cola, Mastercard, Russian Railways, Pharmstandard group, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Novartis Group, MSD, ACIG Group, EF Education First. Partners: Prosveshcheniye Group, EY, Huawei, RVC, Russian Agricultural Bank.

General information partners: Rossiya 24 TV Chanel, TASS, RBC, Business FM; strategic information partners: Kommersant Publishing House, Interfax, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Invest Foresight online business magazine, RIA FederalPress; main information partners: Anews.com, Gazeta.ru, Lenta.ru, News.ru, Profile; international partners: RT, Thomson Reuters, Sputnik, EFE, Cision, Pan Pacific Agency; information partners: Snob media project, PRIME economic news agency, RNS, Expert magazine, Parlamentskaya Gazeta, Polit.ru, Radio Ekho Moskvy, PRO Business TV channel, FINAM.RU agency, Davydov.Index, Strategia magazine, Ekonomika i Zhizn newspaper, ECONS.ONLINE website, Gosudarstvennaya Sluzhba magazine, TV BRICS.