Working Group sessions take place regularly in different cities of Europe and Eurasia.
Milan: Confindustria Russia joins the Initiative for a Common Economic Space
On December 10, 2019, the Russian chapter of General Confederation of Italian Industry, Confindusria Russia, officially joined the Initiative for a Common Economic Space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
During a round table discussion with Italian business representatives, Ernesto Ferlenghi, President of Confindustria Russia, signed the joint Memorandum advocating official talks between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union. With Confindustria Russia, the Lisbon Vladivostok Initiative is supported by nearly 80 business chambers and companies from 8 countries across the EU and EAEU.
Ulf Schneider, Co-Chairman of the Initiative, explained “The support of the Italian business community is an important milestone for us. Italy is one of the strongest European trade partners for the countries of the EAEU. The Italian engagement will further strengthen our voice vis-à-vis the EU and the EAEU.”
The initiative sets its focus on cooperation at technical level, with special emphasis on the harmonization of technical regulations, customs, and tax procedures. In the year 2019 important steps forward could be made—talks between both commissions on concrete projects were initiated and are now taking place on a regular basis.
The round table discussion in Milan was shaped by the question of how the development of the Eurasian Economic Commission can benefit the economic interests of Italian large and medium-sized enterprises. Practical issues, such as the enforcement of procedures and internal market regulations in the EAEU, were discussed with the participating representatives of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
Vienna: Austria at the centre of a common economic space
On November 11, Dr. Wolfgang Schüssel, former Austrian Chancellor, spoke in Vienna at the invitation of the Lisbon Vladivostok Initiative. The 60 high level guests from politics, economics, and science discussed current geopolitical developments with the experienced state politician and discussed opportunities for a rapprochement between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). DDr. Elisabeth Stampfl-Blaha, Director of Austrian Standards, discussed the most current practical form of cooperation: the harmonisation of technical norms and standards. Gunter Deuber, Senior Director of Raiffeisen Bank International, presented the view of the financial markets on Russia and its neighbouring countries as well as current developments in the banking sector. Ulf Schneider, co-chairman of the Initiative, gave an introduction to the working group for a Common Economic Space, and moderated the up-following discussion.
Four Austrian companies signed the Memorandum of the Lisbon-Vladivostok Initiative: BERTSCH Holding, backaldrin, Gebrüder Weiss, and Raiffeisen Bank International.
Nur-Sultan: The Lisbon-Vladivostok Initiative welcomes two new members
At the third EAEU Conference of the German Chambers of Commerce in Nur-Sultan on October 22, the German companies Messe Frankfurt and C. Spaarmann Logistics GmbH signed the joint memorandum of the business initiative for a Common Economic Space from Lisbon to Vladivostok.
“When we were invited to join, we did not hesitate. Our daily business is to connect the region from Lisbon to Vladivostok through our logistic solutions. That is why we support the dialogue between the EU and the EAEU – to improve trade relations.” Ainur Abdila, General Director of C. Spaarmann Kazakhstan, commented. The initiative’s Co-Chairman, Ulf Schneider, congratulated the companies on their membership. The initiative is now supported by 73 business chambers and companies.
Brussels: A Trade Strategy for the Eurasian Economic Union – 13th Working Group Session
In times of global trade conflicts, neighbours need to move closer together. “A Trade Strategy for the Eurasian Economic Union” was the headline for the strategic round table meeting of the Lisbon-Vladivostok Initiative on October 9, 2019, which brought together the EU Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission . The delegation from Moscow was led by EEC Minister of Economy and Finance, Timur Zhaksylykov. In his address to more than 50 guests from politics and business, he called for a structured and comprehensive economic rapprochement with the EU. The Directors of Confindustria Russia and the German Eastern Business Association, Alfredo Gozzi and Michael Harms, spoke on behalf of Italian and German businesses, favoring for a closer cooperation. The meeting was characterised by a constructive and open atmosphere. Both the EEC and the EU Commission made it clear in which areas concrete cooperation is possible. In-depth discussions to simplify trade relations are to follow.
Berlin: 12th Working Group meeting discusses visa regulations
People who meet directly break down prejudices. Dirk Wiese, Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries of the German Federal Foreign Office, gave this short description regarding current questions on visa regulations with the states of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
The business initiative Lisbon Vladivostok hosted their 12th working group meeting on Wednesday, September 25 2019, in Berlin. The focus was on the liberalisation of visa regulations with Russia and countries of the Eurasian Economic Union. Wiese agreed with the initiative’s goal, stressing that “Visa liberalisation reduces prejudices.”
However, Wiese limited Germany’s involvement in visa liberalisation due to the framework of the European Union. In order for other EU partners to support visa liberalisation with the EAEU and general rapprochement with Russia, there needed to be tangible progress in the Ukrainian conflict. The first step has been taken here with the recent exchange of prisoners between Russia and Ukraine.
“These days we see a lot of windows of opportunity to make steps towards a serious dialogue between the EU and the EAEU,” affirmed Ulf Schneider, Chairman of the Lisbon Vladivostok Initiative. Together with Co-Chairman Alexander Rahr, moderator of the session, he underlined that the chances for rapprochement must be actively taken by Germany and the EU.
For the Federal Ministry of the Interior, general progress has already been made in liberalising visa issuance for this group of states. But visa freedom can only be achieved at the end of a process, stressed Dr. Michael Jansen, head of the visa and entry policy unit. The visa facilitation measures for Russia envisaged years ago have been suspended for political reasons, whereas concrete progress on such regulations is being made with Belarus.
Andreas Metz of the German Eastern Business Association pointed out a study of the European Union, according to which visa liberalisation could have noticeable effects for the EU economy. The increase in turnover is estimated to be at least EUR 4 bn per year due to easier entry regulations and 40,000 new jobs could be created in the tourism industry in the first year alone. These economic effects of rapprochement should be taken into account.
In principle, Dirk Wiese welcomed the initiative to create a common economic space from Lisbon to Vladivostok, which the initiative strives for. “I think the idea is the right approach,” he said. This is also in line with the coalition agreement between the CDU/CSU and SPD, where a commitment to a common economic space has been made.
During the working group meeting, the global energy company Uniper signed the memorandum for a common economic area and thus became a new member of the Lisbon-Vladivostok initiative. Uniper is active in more than 40 countries. In addition to energy production, the company procures, stores, transports, and supplies raw materials such as natural gas, LNG, coal, and other energy-related products.
Berlin: 11th Working Group Session
On June 28 2019, the Initiative Lisbon-Vladivostok welcomed two new members: Wintershall Dea, Europe’s largest oil and gas company, and Smyrise AG, a major supplier of fragrances and flavors, cosmetic ingredient solutions, and natural nutrition. The Initiative now has 66 signatories, including companies, business associations, and think tanks.
“Especially in times when there is hardly any political movement between Europe and Russia, the economy must become active,” said Ulf Schneider, co-chairman of the initiative. He stressed that “Our goal is to be a strong voice for cooperation between East and West. Therefore, we want to carry this Initiative to all countries located between the Portuguese capital Lisbon and the most far eastern tip of Russia.”
Dialogue, Trust, Security—for the SPD Spokesman on Foreign Affairs Nils Schmid, these are the three pillars of the New Eastern Policy. “Willy Brandt’s Eastern Policy had a good reputation. And these principles are in demand today more than ever”, Schmid said during his keynote. In the meantime, there has been no movement forward in the political debate between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), especially with EEU’s member state Russia. The restrictions on trade and investment due to sanctions on both sides are costing billions. With great approval from the Working Group, Schmid underlined that he favors closer cooperation with the EEU.
Han Zuyderwijk made clear what happens when European-Russian cooperation stays on hold. The Dutch lawyer is an expert on technical standardization, and advises that joint projects between the EU and EEU to define binding norms and standards for both sides should be re-activated. “When the European Union withdraws, competitors take their seat,” he warned.
Since every initiative needs a platform for exchange, Schneider announced that the Working Group will publish its own newsletter in the future. Every two months “Lisbon-Vladivostok News” will report on the business Initiative and developments in EU-EAEU relations. Subscribe to the newsletter!
10th Meeting: November 28 2018 – Berlin
Coming together at the Representation of the Airbus Group in Berlin the 10th meeting was warmly introduced by Maco Miklis, Head of Region Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia of Airbus and Professor Gabriel Felbermayer as active spokesperson of the working group. Trade policies between east and west were the speeches emphasis. Sevak Sarukhanyan, Adviser to the Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission, completed the productive gathering with his vision of a common energy market from Lisbon to Vladivostok. The meeting was crowned by a signing ceremony with several participants joining the working group by supporting the Memorandum. The evening was rounded off by casual exchange.
9th Meeting: April 23 2018 – Brussels
The 9th meeting of the Working Group took place in the sidelines of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Conference on “EU and the EEU – Chances and Challenges for more Cooperation” in Brussels. High rank meetings with the Belorussian foreign Minister Vladimir Makey, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev and his ambassador to Germany, Bolat Nussupov were brought to topic. The participants were furthermore informed about the results of meetings with the German Ministry of Economy in Berlin and with the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington. The primary focus of the gathering was on diplomatic activities and further event planning. The circle of participants also focused on strategic elements of the working group.
8th Meeting: February 15 2018 – Moscow
After a series of meetings on EU ground, the 8th meeting was the first one to take place in a member state of the Eurasian Economic Union. An opening statement of Tatiana Valovaya, Minister for Integration of the Eurasian Economic Commission, was followed by an official signing procedure of the Memorandum by representatives of the German companies Robert Bosch and Knorr-Bremse. After discussing the three existing task forces – customs and logistics, technical regulations and visa facilitation- a forth one was introduced: chances and challenges of digitalization in a common economic zone. The meeting was furthermore enhanced by scientific lectures as the one from Dr. Anastasia Stepanova from the International Institute of Applied Science’s (IIASA), who reported on non-tariff barriers, foreign direct investments and transport with regard to the working groups efforts.
2nd Meeting: June 13 2016 – Berlin
The second get-together in Berlin was based on the professional input of Dr. Alexander Libman of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs and Dr. Ricardo Giucci. While the former argued on perspectives for both Russia and Europe emerging from a common economic space, Mr. Giucci thematized the harmonization and standardization of technical norms in terms of creating a base for the developing communal zone.
1st Meeting: November 22-23 2015 – Potsdam
The first gathering marked the birth of the Working Group “Common Economic Space from Lisbon to Vladivostok”. Personalities from all areas of civil society, ranging from politics and economy to science and arts participated in the meeting. Matthias Platzeck, Chairman of the German-Russian Foru, and Dr. Gernot Erler, by then still Member of German Parliament and Special Representative of the German Government for Russia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, gave inspiring keynote speeches and thereby opened a lively discussion about the future of a cross-border common economic space. In connection therewith conceptual ideas for the working group’s set-up as well as chances, possible risks and challenges were broached. The two-day gathering was the successful prelude of an ongoing series of talks and meetings up until today