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Obschaya Gazeta No 48

A Marshall plan for post-communist Europe. This is something that the West should seriously consider.

Grigory Yavlinsky
November 30, 2000

Five years ago one of the leading European politicians asked me about the global goal of the Yabloko party. I replied that our goal is to make Russia a European country in 20-25 years. On hearing my reply, he said, lowering his voice: "Never say this to anyone again - the bureaucrats in Brussels would die from horror, if they heard that Russia plans to become part of the EU." This was when I realised that something was wrong with the integration of Europe.

My conviction that the way to the European Union only lay through Brussels emerged during the "Cold War", when only those who could help resist the Warsaw Treaty and the Soviet Union were admitted into the EC. The Cold War is over, but the old concept survived. However, some countries are still humbly asking to be admitted into Europe, while others are looking down at them and trying to explain to them why this cannot happen today.

The arguments of applicants to the European Union can be summed up by the explanation that in this case the aforementioned countries will obtain democracy, a market economy and many other positive things, including security. I suppose that this should be approached from the other end: what can the applicants offer Europe?

Let us consider this problem from three angles.

The first aspect is the economy. It is absolutely obvious that in the next century there will be two economic centres in the world - the USA and Asia. If Europe decides to compete with them and become the third centre, it can only achieve this goal if it accepts the following requirement: integration of Russia's potential in the European economic mechanism.

The Russian economy is based today only on the extraction of oil, gas, ferrous and non-ferrous metals. We live like a drug addict. However, instead of a needle we have a gas tube in one vein and an oil tube in the other. The economics of the tube lead nowhere. The economic hallucinations will stop.

We will face a problem: where can we turn to obtain more drugs? We have to go cold turkey. And it won’t be easy.

To develop Russia's economic potential to enable it to become part of the integration process in Europe over the next 20-25 years, we need to create another common market for Eastern Europe that will exist in parallel to the European common market. This second market should grow and develop together with the first one. Sooner or later they will begin to interact. The aim of the Marshall plan can be summed up as follows: immediately after World War II the United States granted credits to Britain, France and Germany to enable them to purchase goods from each other. Consequently, today we need Marshall Plan No 2, which would stimulate trade between Romania and Bulgaria, between Romania, Bulgaria and Russia, between Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia and Macedonia, between Macedonia, Slovenia, Yugoslavia and other countries. The European Union should be concerned about this issue. To condescend to the entreaties of the Eastern European countries to be admitted into the European Community is outdated merely in terms of the logic. A new concept is required: the accumulation of potential, acceleration and interaction of communicating vessels, which sooner or later will result in the cohesion of European markets.

Security is another important issue. In 1972 two international anti-missile defence treaties were signed, which had the following objectives: Neither country had the right to build up defence systems. For many years this acted as a deterrent. Today the situation has changed. There are states that cannot be trusted here, there are terrorists who can launch missiles wherever they wish. Therefore, not only the USA, but also Europe has the right to discuss the issue of anti-missile defence systems. But Europe alone, without Russia, cannot create an anti-missile defence system. Russia's "hole" in Europe's "nuclear umbrella" will reduce to zero all efforts here. Like it or not, one has to think about the Russian-European anti-missile defence system, using Russian technologies and potential.

Let me highlight only three large political issues in the interaction of Russia and Europe. First, the need for clarity in EU policies in Eastern Europe. Today these policies are based on two corner-stones that are unfortunately, mutually exclusive in many aspects. One of them concerns human rights policies. And the second – the so-called "realpolitik". They constantly clash. For example, PACE adopts a decision regarding Russia's actions in Chechnya, and then on the next day the Council of Ministers assembles to announce: pay no attention. The problem is, admittedly, complicated. There are terrorists in Chechnya that represent a colossal danger. But at the same time war implies a terrible crime against civilians that live and die there. The real contradictions of the situation should not give rise to contradictions in European political thinking.

Secondly, Europe still does not have a single serious information channel in Russia. "Euronews" are broadcast in all languages, even those of non-European countries. But there is simply no programme in Russian that over 300 million people could watch or listen to. The European Union does not supply on a regular basis political information in Russian and is not concerned about spreading its political culture in Russian. This is the second promising direction for policies.

Thirdly, the European Union should decisively change its model of communication with Eastern Europe. The attitude of the Western political elite towards our countries is based on their conviction that Russians are not ready for democracy, a market economy or any other values of today's civilisation. The Western political elite has drawn the following conclusion: we need a "friend" in the Kremlin. And it would be preferable if he had an iron first and ruled as harshly as possible. They can make friends with him, give him money in small installments, engage in politics with him, sing his praises, and he in exchange will not send missiles to Europe, and will hold his subjects in his iron grip and Europeans may not be afraid of them anymore. Whatever happens to these "subjects" lies outside the sphere of influence of European politicians. The ten past years have demonstrated the following: communications at summit level and attempts to influence politics on the basis of personal are doomed to failure.

Today people wishing to obtain a visa to Europe have to stand in long queues in front of the embassies of European countries in Moscow. European countries invent countless obstacles for visitors from Russia to prevent as many as possible from visiting these countries. Consequently, these people cannot see with their own eyes developments in Europe. That is why it is difficult for our people to say what steps should be taken to transform Russia into a European country. The European Union should not toughen the visa regime: it should on the contrary facilitate the visa process, to enable any Russian citizen with a foreign passport to spend at least two weeks in Europe at least once a year. If we are not treated as equals, there will be no prospects for the development of our relations.

The most unbelievable ideas begin working when they are transformed into definite steps. The pessimism of thought and optimism of will is the principle that should be applied in all directions.

Russia's problems present a separate topic. Today it is easier to speak about these problems: they are clearer and easier to understand. We shall return to this discussion on the pages of "Obschaya Gazeta" in the near future.

Obschaya Gazeta No 48, November 30, 2000