By Elena Novikova, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Legal and Economic Studies.
On behalf of the Center for Legal and Economic Studies (“the Center”), formerly of Moscow, Russian Federation, I am pleased to announce the resumption of its activity, with a project entitled "Expert support for West-Russia dialogue”.
The Center is a group of independent experts, mostly but not exclusively Russian, working both inside and outside the country. The Center first operated as a nongovernmental organization and subsequently became a part of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Unfortunately, the Center and its activity was shut down by the Russian authorities due to the involvement of several of its members in providing independent expertise in connection with the UKOS-related criminal cases. As a result, in order to continue our activity, we have found it necessary to move the Center to a virtual platform.
We are making our best effort to plan our activity on the new platform and, depending on the success of our search for support, hope to launch it on a full scale. Studies in the area of the rule of law and practical aspects of its implementation in Russia have always been the priority of the Center’s research team. Currently a new legal reality is developing in Russia. We believe the fundamental weakness of the laws and law enforcement diminishes the flow of investments into Russia, which in turn has already halted the growth of the economy. At the same time, the civil society lacks the power to influence legislative and law enforcement practices. In this context, even more than ever, the rule of law is a factor that plays a key role in determining the evolutionary development of society.
Our present focus is on sustaining intergovernmental dialogue and dialogue among interested Russian and western civil society groups. Professionally, we intend to continue research, analysis, and preparation of policy papers presenting different policy alternatives, using our established and successful multidisciplinary approach combining expertise in law, economics, and energy.
It is our aim and hope that our activities will contribute to the restart of the Helsinki process, in spite of the conflicts, challenges and threats to European security that have arisen in recent years. In the initial phase, the thrust of our activities will be to develop expert proposals (mainly of legal and economic nature) and conduct discussions on the revitalization of the best available international security mechanisms in current circumstances, with the aim of promoting compliance with the principles and norms of international law in Europe. More specifically, we will address:
- Principles and mechanisms for the resolution of acute and frozen conflicts in Europe, trainings in approaches to their resolution, and other expert and consulting support for mediation and other conflict resolution techniques;
- Resumption of the dialogue between Russia and the EU concerning the European energy policy;
- Assessment of the legal character and economic consequences of the sanctions – counter-sanctions policy;
- Refraining by creditor and debtor countries from using financial debt as a means of political pressure;
- Shared criteria of international law for the recognition of new states, clarifying the legal meaning of the concepts of "peoples" and “nations”;
- Procedures for facilitating the resolution of the conflicts between the right of nations for self-determination and the right of the state to protect its territorial integrity; the European states' statements on non-recognition of territories separated from existing states as a result of hostilities as independent states;
- Expanding the circle of countries interested in the renewal of existing, and creation of new, mechanisms of containment;
- The legal regime of non-recognized territories, legal and economic risks for companies operating there, property rights, etc.
While events involving Ukraine are very critical at present, they are not the main or the sole important issue. What could be done by the West and Russia in this new situation? For now Russia can be treated as an isolated party, but for how long can this situation continue? Sanctions against Russia, not just effected political and financial elites, but unfortunately lead to the strengthening of an authoritarian strain in the Russian regime, contribute to the deterioration of the living conditions of the population as well induce the Russian middle class and intellectuals to leave the country, with the resulting brain and capital drain benefiting the West. The remaining majority of the Russians are under the influence of the current propaganda. Therefore, their readiness and ability to objectively comprehend what is happening and adequately evaluate the authorities’ actions are impaired, with respect to both politics and the economy, and they are unwilling to abandon their attachment to the notion of Russia’s “exceptional” role in the world and history.
Russia presents an unfortunate case that would be useful for experts, jointly with those in the West, to analyze, and for political leaders to consider: a country with an unstable economy, a transitional (in essence, authoritarian) political system, in possession of nuclear weapons, and, at the same time, both internally and externally experiencing growing isolation from the West, will undergo transformation creating serious dangers for itself and for the world community.
Currently Russia is the risky partner thus now the West and Russia are under each other’s isolationist policies. Meaningful dialogue is not available, and the exchange of views backed into a framework of mutual criticism in the media in the style of propaganda. It seems that such a miscommunication is not for the benefit of both sides, and to treat Russia as an outcast makes talks nonproductive and non helpful for both parties. Pacification and reconciliation are needed and possible between the parties.
When choosing forms of work and its experts one should be aware that the Russian experts, who will give an objective analysis of the situation, deviates from existing in the country standard coverage of relation Russia-West, with high probability will be subjected to the risk of various types of pressure from the authorities (especially, the events of recent years shows that the authorities in Russia are increasingly resorting to the means of criminal repression in the fight against dissidents).
Position "We are not interested in Russia" is the wrong slogan, not based on the objective situation. Russian authorities have explained that "bear asks no one," including those who are "not interested". If the desire for talks lacks from both sides now, that does not mean that Russia will become a partner or an enemy in future, or that it will not start its own game that may essentially and negatively tip the balance of forces. This means only that Russia (itself and as a core of the Eurasian project on the basis of CIS) all the more should be monitored and analyzed in search of possible mutual decisions, it is important that West does lose control of the situation and future developments due to the position of "disinterest". Thus it is logical to assume that international structures should be interested in independent interbranch research for the future:
- Positive research: possibility for establishing common project organization, some form of a partnership, or
- Negative (analysis of the counterproductive behavior of parties), as an option - complete mutual exclusion, with a hostile nuclear state, which will separate from the EU, using Ukraine as a buffer. Losses and risks, measured by duration, qualitative and quantitative criteria, political and, above all, humanitarian consequences;
- “Neutral” – analysis of an existing condition, taking into account existing sanctions and anti-sanctions, current developments and the reorientation of Russia from the West on economic and political relations with China and other non-European countries. As a minimum – monitoring the situation. Russia could be an outsider being pushed to make friends with China, Iran, Venezuela, Syria, Northern Korea, etc. Europe may substitute Russian gas supplies from Northern America, Africa and from the other regions of the World.
Today, as activity of the European Commissioner of Energy shows, there is a crucial need of instruments for the EU-Russia dialogue, since the existing instruments are not functioning and the negative consequences are coming now.
The regional instruments should be used for possible cooperation with Russia. One of the major European instruments that could be used in this regard is the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights as rule of law, that could be reached through better protection of human rights and freedoms at national level as well as civic activism, would assist to overcome the above stated concerns. We believe that facilitation on the full and effective execution of judgments and decisions made on leading cases by the Court are of utmost importance as they could bring to necessary changes of the legislation that could support the further development of relations between Russia and Europe.
One more aspect is the absence of a modern generation of specialists on contemporary Russia focusing to quite opposite goal unlike to school of sovietologists which is almost over today.
The legacy that the EU has got as a result of the collapse of the socialist countries presented as the large number of frozen conflicts. Not only they have not been settled, but increasingly there is continuous creation of new conflicts on the territory of the former USSR and ex-Yugoslavia and the other former socialistic countries. One shall search for universal methods of their settlement and professionals for its implementation. If the parties are seeking of the agreements, the choice of agents-mediators should be based on understanding of the national culture of countries with frozen and new conflicts, understanding the internal social and economic origins and persistence (sometimes even escalation) of such conflicts.
Lack of dialogue is unproductive for all the interested parties. Dialogue formats that exist today are either blatant propaganda or are very closed and conducted only at the political level. This leaves a number of important problems out of the dialogue, the solution of which interests all the parties. In such a situation, it is important to discuss these issues at the level of professionals who have distanced themselves from any political vector. As a result, a request for an immediate settlement of the conflict and the preparation of proposals (including monitoring and analysis of the rapidly changing situation) in the relationship of the world economy and the foreign policy process of countries involved.
Chronicle of events
- Roundtable "Ecomonic and legal aspects of subsoil use"
- Presentation of monograph "Rule of Law as the Economic Factor", February 12, 2013
- Roundtable "Criminal policy's Impact on the Economics", April 4. 2012
- Roundtable, January 31, 2012
- Symposium "Criminal Policy and Business", December 8, 2011
- International seminar, November 2011, McGill University
- Parliament hearings on October 17, 2011
- Scientific seminar of Mr. E.G. Yassin, June 29, 2011
- Meeting of the expert group, June 14, 2011
- Press conference in "RIA Novosti", June 02, 2011
- International Seminar, May 31, 2011
- Roundtable, May 25, 2011
- Roundtable, April 18, 2011
- Roundtable in State Duma, February 9, 2011
- Parliament hearings on September 16, 2010
- Book presentation in LSE, 19-20 March, 2010