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Euro-BRICS 2012-2014 : Towards thematic cooperation networks based on a specific politico-diplomatic framework


Report of the 3rd Euro-BRICS Seminar



The world continues to move through an historical crisis which marks the end of the systems and power relationships dominating the world since the end of the Second World War. The dynamics at the heart of the events of accelerated globalisation and markets’ unbridled expansion these last twenty years have just collapsed. International relations in all fields (finance, economy, currencies, strategy, diplomacy…) have been subjected to an unprecedented rebalancing over the last few decades. This new global context creates new balances (and imbalances) which are rapidly replacing those inherited from the last two major breaches in the world order, namely the Second World War and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Whether for peacefully managing the tensions which are dawning at all the levels of world governance inherited from the 20th century, against a background of an ongoing global systemic crisis, players on a world scale, old, new, or resurgent must display audacity and innovation to try and lay down the bases of 21st century world governance. In this respect, without any doubt, Europeans from Euroland and Russians constitute a promising partnership which can be used as a base for such a renewal. The Euro-BRICS initiative, jointly administered by LEAP/E2020 and the MGIMO since 2010 and now supported by an active network of experts from Euroland, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa is, incidentally, an obvious example.

In this sense, and following on from the work of the two preceding Euro-BRICS seminars (Nice 2010, Moscow 2011), this third seminar, presented on September 27th-28th, 2012 in Cannes by LEAP/E2020 in partnership with the MGIMO, was organized around two indispensable strategic and operational axes :

1. Towards the development of Euro-BRICS thematic networks

2. Considerations over a political-diplomatic framework for Euro-BRICs cooperation

The two approaches complement each other closely: the first, significantly operational, aims at offering promising paths for Euro-BRICS networks of researchers, universities, businesses, cities, NGOs, whilst the second, more strategic, seeks to define a framework of Euro-BRICS diplomatic-strategic co-operation.

The objective of the Cannes seminar, geared to the following Euro-BRICS seminar which will be held in Moscow in February 2013, was subjected to two very tangible limitations:

. To target above all the axes/fields of Euro-BRICS co-operation which could be quickly developed

. To propose a Euro-BRICS approach for the future G20 summit to be held in September 2013 in St Petersburg.

The debates which this meeting produced were once more hallmarked by their fertility and innovation. About twenty BRICS and Eurozone representatives thus had the occasion to describe their vision of international cooperation and world governance in the “world after the crisis”; visions which weren’t always the same but which often complemented each other and converged on the major points. A real renewal of the topics of co-operation as well as a humanization of globalisation appeared as the principal advantages of future Euro-BRICS co-operation.

This report’s format follows that of the seminar itself, reviewing the various topics of co-operation which were addressed, the question of the world governance, and concluding by a series of proposals for the operational set-up of this new Euro-BRICS area for strategic co-operation.

Co-operation in Science and Technology : priority for the opening-up of research, innovation, human capital

The creation of EURO-BRICS networks has appeared likely to push research in science and technology out from the crisis which it is in currently. In fact, the international scientific community has become a closed system, disconnected from reality, self-sustaining, and without control by the people. It has become a technocracy, in particular in theoretical physics, cosmology, economics, and also in the field of new energy sources. The String Theory offers a very good example of this impasse in which research finds itself: at the end three decades of frenzied research, of more than 100,000 publications, and huge sums spent to the detriment of many other areas of research, this theory hasn’t produced any tangible results, without taking into account that it’s not even scientifically rebuttable! These sociological blocks are the cause of a serious scientific crisis and a total lack of innovation in these fundamental fields which are, however, essential for the management of the current and upcoming systemic crises: ecological and energy crises to mention but two. It is thus a question of giving itself the conceptual bases to be able to subsequently develop new technological solutions for the management of the resources, energy, and exchanges taken into account in a human economy. Relying on the Euro-BRICS networks the scientific community will give itself a new frontier to establish new areas where democracy and scientific freedom would be better defended.

Scientific and technological innovation is a good criterion of the sector’s dynamism. For that matter it’s a government priority as a sign of modernity and economic dynamism. However, experience has shown that there was no innovation without collaboration: between businesses, universities, and research institutes; between researchers in a particular sector, country, geographic zones, and speaking different languages … Joint publications are a good indicator of the degree of a country’s scientific collaboration. A study of their number and distribution allows one to conclude, in particular, that the United States was the only Anglophone country whose produced scientific works represented less than 30% of international joint publications. So much for the leading country in international scientific research! In addition, joint publications have the advantage of giving works a wider audience. South Africa provides an interesting case of developments in this field, in particular having a significant increase in scientific publications jointly produced by researchers in various African countries, the result of the strategy of opening up the country’s universities to those of the rest of the continent. Again concerning South Africa, it’s confronted with a dissemination problem linked to monolingualism and the problem of the standard of publications’ statistics. The statistics show that the publications’ subjects reflect the countries own interests (i.e. infectious diseases in South Africa). Here one tackles the question of the researchers’ mobility and the aspects of “over-the-border” exchanges, relatively closed structures in themselves.

Innovation is, of course, synonymous with the “knowledge economy” and thus closely related to the question of “human capital”. The knowledge society has revealed that one of the BRICS objectives is the reduction of their dependence on technologies provided by other countries. Thus, the accent is placed on the central character of human resources whose enhancement goes hand in hand with individual and social wellbeing, technical and professional efficiency, capacity for innovation… Education is obviously at the heart of this enhancement of human capital. De facto the BRICS invest in this capital: India and China in particular are experimenting with rapid growth in the educational arena; meanwhile Russia is maintaining its scientific culture in fundamental research, as opposed to the EU in particular, increasingly turned towards applied research. On the other hand, the statistics show that China is the country devoting the most resources to R & D whereas, contrary to appearances, in Russia and the US, human capital is low. The BRICS are aware perfectly that “the only wealth is man” [1] , that the 21st century will be that of education in the sense of “learning to learn”, and no longer in the sense of “knowing/learning”. Whereas Europe, under the influence of “think everything in terms of money”, has tended to move away from this kind of societal priority to return to the rationale of financially profitable teaching or de-financing education; a coming together with the BRICS is likely to lead it back to a healthier regard for the value of human capital.

In practical terms, on what bases should a Euro-BRICS platform be created as regards scientific and technical cooperation?

Towards a Euro-BRICS Schengen? One of the ways selected to help achieve these goals is that of the need for a policy of mobility for researchers, i.e. obtaining visas or facilitating work permits. On this question, an ambitious proposal was formulated during the seminar, that of creating a Euro-BRICS Schengen allowing free-movement of people between these countries. Such a construction would constitute an extremely strong political signal in favour of the establishment of privileged relations in this direction. In addition, Schengen answers an economic rationale of the modernization of the management of human flows more than a disappearance of borders. Finally, many border crossings between the various Euro-BRICS members are already free of all visa restrictions (Brazil- South Africa, Brazil-Russia, Europe…). The putting in place of such an experiment could be done gradually, starting with the Kaliningrad enclave, then evaluation, decision, a further stage, evaluation, decision, etc…

The speakers recognized that being monolingual, not very favourable for innovation, was not necessary in this approach, only the translation appeared to be essential.

As for financing constraints, it’s only a question of political will.

Concerning the topics of co-operation on scientific and technical matters, the participants were agreed that it was necessary to identify the scientific sectors and topics in which blockages, dead ends, and existing frustrations could be seen and to seek the subjects to which Euro-BRICS co-operation could bring a breath of fresh air, complementary… a true added-value likely to open new areas of thought/research.

Practically, it’s a question of basing this cooperation on new technologies of course (Internet, social networks, videoconferencing…) to reduce costs. The costly face-to-face meetings seem to be imposing themselves less at the time of these tools, in particular in the Euro-BRICS context where a written understanding is sometimes better than an oral one.

One of the methods adopted to multiply the lines of Euro-BRICS co-operation would consist of contributing to the development of Euro-BRICS cells within research centres, universities, etc… in the countries of the two groups considered.

Co-operation in the socio-economic field: Towards a win-win globalisation model?

If there is really one area where Euro-BRICS relations are already a reality, it’s that of trade: the five BRICS countries are in the top 20 of EU partners; and if the trade balance is unfavourable to the EU, BRICS development constitutes a great opportunity for European exports. European businesses well know this, those which for several years now have already turned their development strategies in this direction.

The dependence between these two groups of countries has increased considerably; as proof, the efforts authorized by the BRICS to help solve the Euro crisis (participation in the Eurozone financial support programme, discussions around the increase in IMF aid for the Eurozone, increase in imports coming from the EU, etc…).

From a more institutional point of view, each of the five BRICS has signed an agreement with the EU but there is no global agreement between the EU and the BRICS at the moment. However, the addition of five UE-BRICS partnerships will always be of a nature other than a true group to group strategic partnership, a balanced partnership between two similar transnational networks offering much more innovative prospects.

As regards socio-economic matters, BRICS heterogeneity sometimes seems like a brake, sometimes an accelerator, to the establishment of EURO-BRICS networks. In fact, the BRICS members have different development motors and economic policies; but the complementary elements are easy to identify and it’s a question of concentrating on them. One is not obliged to discuss everything in a partnership; on the other hand, organizing complementarities is, all the same, more fruitful than controlling competition between players with similar profiles.

In addition to the obvious advantage for the two parties to work in favour of facilitating trade between them, the WTO is another area of Euro-BRICS common interest as regards trade. In fact, each BRICS had to fight to join the WTO. They there are now and realize that the masters of the game in this circle are much more meddlesome as regards free trade since they are not the ones who profit from it anymore; the BRICS are also aware that each one on their side is unable to make the frontlines move, even when one has China’s strike power. A BRICS strategic regrouping seemed a solution to this problem also, but the configuration then resembles a kind of North-South head-on opposition from which nothing constructive can materialise. Only a Euro-BRICS alliance is likely to make these frontlines move and influence the decision-making process regulating markets. The question is of course: have Euroland and the BRICS common positions to defend? On a typical balanced stance “how to benefit from the international market whilst protecting its domestic market”, certainly yes! Thus it’s around this key strategic objective that the BRICS and Euroland must meet, to formulate joint positions and to push them forward within the WTO.

Thinking along the same lines, there is also a field where a dialogue between Euroland and the BRICS is required, that of the many trade disputes which confront them, in particular the EU and China. Indeed, it’s in the BRICS interest to increase their influence over the European mechanisms in trade affairs; which raises the question of BRICS participation in the regional blocks and the coordination of their positions with partners like MERCOSUR, the Euro-Asiatic Economic Community, the Southern Africa Customs Union, etc…

The framework of a Euro-BRICS partnership appeared during these discussions as one of most favourable to create a “win-win” model for international trade, based on balanced trade positions more respectful of humans.

In practical terms, a certain number of topics were considered favourable to Euro-BRICS collaboration:

. The reform of the European trade preference system

. The reform of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism

. A trade dispute watchdog

. A practical co-operation plan was also proposed which relates to reforming the way trade is calculated. It would be a question of building a Euro-BRICS network of sociologists and economists working to create the calculation of wealth, growth and trade based on new Euro-BRICs criteria in order to move towards a new vision of the economic world. In fact, currently world trade is not calculated on the basis of fair trade, it’s time to think in value-added terms. The bases for calculating world trade are arbitrary and disconnected from the new realities: for example, trade balance analyses can no longer be made by simply comparing imports/exports at a time of outsourcing abroad for example. Here again, we have come to the end of the current system.

. A topic of co-operation and a fruitful exchange of know-how between Europe and the BRICS relates to infrastructure modernization.

. The creation of a new framework for intellectual property protection appeared as a topic of Euro-BRICS common interest particularly interesting to explore.

. A contentious topic, brought forward by India in particular, and thus interesting to examine further, relates to reaching agreement on the mobility of people and goods.

. A strongly political proposal relates to the organization of a Euro-BRICS trade summit by 2014.

Networks in the field of the raw materials, energy and the environment: preserving wealth without destroying growth

As regards the environment also, the international group (Rio+20) is at a dead end. How can the Euro-BRICS recast the world environmental agenda?

Europe, a leading power in this field, has lost influence since 2009 and the global agenda is feeling the effects. Obvious convergence between Euroland and the BRICS could make a re-launch possible if synergies are created. On the BRICS side, essentially one thing must be taken into account: that the environmental policies don’t harm their economic growth. But on this basis, Euroland and the five BRICS are very aware of the importance of environmental challenges (how could one not be when India or China has a population of one and a half billion?).

The EU must re-establish its financial incentive policies. The definition of a restrictive commercial framework from the environmental point of view must be carried out in consultation with the BRICS so as not to lead to commercial disputes and/or by-passing the rules.

In the environmental field, the problem is the formation of new industrial sectors which takes a great deal of time. In this respect, questions of environmental strategy could be the object of a preliminary approach in a specific section in bilateral agreements, this to initiate a convergence, taking into account the divergent approaches as regards the climate and the positioning of BRICS members with respect to the RIO +20 conclusions. Here also, it is necessary to look at the timeframe and work to deadlines of 25/50 years.

The proposal is that the EU sets up a coordinated foreign policy, including environmental and energy sections, beginning with bilateral agreements before subsequently moving on to a multilateral one. The Strategic Partnerships between the EU and the BRICS could be used as a basis for this kind of agreement.

In terms of networks to be established in the raw materials, energy and environment sector, a problem is that effective solutions are generally local (optimization compared to the milieu). It is thus difficult to have global policies or a convergence, including within the BRICS. How to integrate the regional rationale of the environment into the BRICS grass-roots?

In practical terms, here are some lines of thought to explore between Euroland and the BRICS:

. The question of making public opinion aware of the environmental questions in the BRICS and the contribution of European experience in this field.

. Towards a “Euro-BRICs people’s environment summit (climate change, nitrogen/phosphorus cycle, biodiversity loss, land use change, freshwater scarcity, ocean acidification)”?

. Environment, bio-fuels and food safety: what are the future paths? What are the promising research topics of the future?

. Which framework (legal, technological…) for Euro-BRICS co-operation in energy and environmental matters ?

. The nuclear power issue (cf development in India). Take into account the differences in priorities between Euro-BRICS as regards energy. Initiate converging processes. Guarantee energy markets stability and continuity.

. Cooperation topic: adaptation to extreme climate conditions

. Increased Euro-BRICS cooperation as regards climate policy: Brazil, South Africa, China

World Governance: becoming global whilst preserving the local element

In the face of the world governance crisis, a multitude of re-launching projects for this governance according to new principles, regroupings, methods… are seeing the light of day. What are the chances of BRICS project in this cacophony? Does a partnership with Euroland improve its chances? This group is making this bet knowing that the EURO-BRICS partnership represents half the influence in the G20.

This crisis of governance is partly due to the arrival of new players, the emerging powers, in the international arena which have become overcrowded, weakened by the disparities between representatives… Today the international organizations, incapable of creating alliances and true majorities, don’t produce anything interesting any more. Clearly, strategic Euro-BRICS alliances on the topics which are close to their concerns constitute a solution for energizing these institutions again.

It’s interesting to note that neither the BRICS nor Euroland currently have a leadership rationale; all seem to be wary of this kind of position, even China. It’s also what pushes them to seek alliances which are also intended to share the responsibilities. One seems to pass from governance based on leadership to one based on influence. This feature probably constitutes a characteristic of the “world after the crisis”.

Indeed, meanwhile, globalisation affects all areas, to the extent of becoming worrying for local and national interests. For many years we have witnessed an increasing incursion of world governance into national and local affairs: intellectual property, competition policies, medical and plant health measures, technical and standards regulations, standards as regards employment, protection of foreign workers, environmental standards, accounting standards, statistics, public contracts, subsidies, fiscal policies, tax scourges, monetary policy,… The challenge for the emerging powers, but also increasingly for the EU, becomes: how to become/remain global whilst preserving its own interests? How to protect diversity (a true common Euro-BRICS worry)? Questions of subsidiarity thus appear, questions well-known to the EU. All these problems in fact come back to the question of the democratization of global governance and to its management style, for example: global governance or intergovernmental governance? The symmetry between the questions that the emerging powers are posed as regards their entry on the international scene and the questions inherent in European construction is striking and makes it possible to think that the Euro-BRICS framework is likely to produce interesting answers to these problems. To this end, the organizing of dialogues on Euro-BRICS policies can provide a framework favourable to the development of common fronts/positions.

Security and world governance has been the mixing pot of new approaches which would make it possible to leave the old habits of bilateral diplomacy behind. Indeed, today, the BRICS still don’t speak with the same voice in world governance circles. However, during the seminar, it appeared of great importance that Euro-BRICS relations constitute a major axis of these countries foreign policies, in order to create the core of future world governance which will be able to offer topics for an economic policy agenda which preserves each partner’s cultural and economic diversity. We are at the crossroads, either the Euro-BRICS partnership speaks with the same voice within the international organizations, or it initiates the creation of a multilateral Euro-BRICS framework as an alternative to these international organizations: “If the BRICS manage to maintain the progress of their economic power, they will be principal G20 players, important WTO participants and central partners on the international stage. That, therefore, questions their capacity to create or re-create the agenda for economic cooperation and world development”.

One of the principal objectives to target for future governance is to play a role of forecasting crises rather than that of fireman, in the field of financial stability first of all, via the G20. This financial stability must be a shield against systemic risks, allowing a regulation of international capital flows, and facilitating capital investments in other countries, in particular China’s capitals.

In practical terms here are several paths to explore to advance the idea of a strategic Euro-BRICS partnership around the reform of world governance:

Main proposal: The Euro-BRICS should consider the holding of meetings ahead of each G20, beginning with the next G20 in St Petersburg which, moreover, has the advantage of being the first to be held outside the area of Western influence.

There are numerous fields in which a Euro-BRICS dialogue is expected, but one will note in particular: . International monetary system reform . Consolidation of the world financial system . BRICS entry into the United Nations Security Council (towards a Security Council made of : the US, Europe, Russia, China, Brazil, India, South Africa)

A politico-diplomatic frame of reference for Euro-BRICS co-operation: a decentralized co-operation

The possibilities and advantages related to the development of co-operation pivots between Euroland and the BRICS now being established, the practical issue is: on which politico-diplomatic basis should this co-operation rest? First of all, one hits a problem: the BRICS, like Euroland, are two legal ghosts, without a master agreement. So is it possible to build a politico-institutional framework for co-operation between two networks which have no legal existence?

What can seem a handicap from a traditional institutional point of view is undoubtedly not one at the beginning of this 21st century which marks a crisis of states, diplomacies, institutions, etc… What makes the BRICS strong points is exactly the structural lightness of their association which can concentrate its energy on the objectives instead of having to set out and construct an institutional structure. At the time of the Internet, videoconferencing and networks, it’s the project which takes precedence. Euroland also, certainly with no legal existence, is the new motor of European construction, leaving the heavy EU community machine far behind it, trapped in its European Union committee system and voting power. Moreover, the participants have agreed that the EU should not be the Euro- partner in the Euro-BRICS partnership liable to introduce delays incompatible with the urgency for some of the problems to be resolved.

The Euro-BRICS partnership will be a reflection of its two parts: modern, fast, decentralized, with variable geometry, in networks and project-oriented. No question, for example, of listing the countries of which it consists, a list of criteria will be enough: the BRICS on one side and the Eurozone countries on the other: all will depend on the project. As regards the effect on the G20 partnership for example, the suitable countries, in addition to the BRICS, will be Germany, France and Italy, as well as Spain and the Netherlands to a lesser extent, being 3/5 of the Eurozone countries’ G20 members/observers. On the other hand, as regards the creation of WTO alliances, more Euroland countries could be associated. That said it will be often more interesting to work on the basis of a few representative countries to identify joint positions quicker and create a common adherence to these positions, rather than put too many people around the negotiating table and lapse into the mistakes of current world governance.

On this subject it’s interesting to note that the relevance of each BRICS is not only related to their economic-demographic stature: the BRICS are interesting in this sense in that they are also representative of their continent: Brazil and South America, South Africa and Africa, India and South Asia, China and East Asia. It’s a little less true for Russia, which confirms its character as a bridge between the two entities. As regards Euroland, the fluctuating character of a group of countries involved in Euro-BRICS co-operation matters little, the essential being their character representative of the whole group of Eurozone countries and their relevance as regards the topic of co-operation.

The Euro-BRICS partnership will have to be based on rationales of decentralized co-operation, with little involvement of state or supra-state structures but depending on each profession’s enterprise: Euro-BRICS network of researchers, academics, businesses, journalists, diplomats etc… It’s the relevance of the Euro-BRICS axis of co-operation which must generate ground-up initiatives.

Of course, there is the question of financing this cooperation. First of all, this cooperation mustn’t cost much: based on new technologies, drawing on budget lines for pre-existing cooperation, optimizing a de facto mobility… The Euro-BRICS is a new orientation to each organisation’s cooperation policy: organizing a Euro-BRICS workshop within the framework of an international conference, creating a Euro-BRICS centre for an international relations office of such and such a university… that’s what doesn’t cost a great deal. But two things are needed for this development to take place, inspiring the idea of the Euro-BRICS axis and keeping the promises of its added value.

If additional financing is required in spite of everything for keeping a Euro-BRICS network alive, the network partners can turn to the usual providers of funds: local authority, region, state, private partners. Here again, it’s the interest of the approach which will be the trump card for obtaining subsidies.

Ultimately, but without depending on this assumption to start making a Euro-BRICS partnership work as quickly as possible, a Euro-BRICS co-operation fund could be created, financed by the two parties’ countries, as the result of an upcoming Euro-BRICS summit.

On the other hand a real political will must see the light of day. And this is the mission which this seminar’s participants are given: energizing the politico-diplomatic circuits with this idea; causing sectors to come together; and at an institutional level pushing forward the idea of these preparatory Euro-BRICS meetings ahead of the G20, a strategy conceived as the spearhead of Euro-BRICS rapprochement.

Recommendations for the Euro-Brics leaders

At the end of the seminar, the participants proposed a list of subjects to be addressed as soon as possible, and to promote them, either by using their own networks of influence or by making representations to the embassies of the EURO-BRICS partnership’s influential countries (Germany, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands [2] …) :

. Diplomatic cooperation: holding Euro-BRICS meetings between diplomats in capitals

. Political dialogue on the question of capital regulation in the host countries; on the basis of intergovernmental methodology

. Reform of the Security Council: towards a Security Council consisting of China, the United States, Euroland or the EU, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa?

. Climate and energy Policies: promoting energy with low levels of CO2, adjustment to extreme climates, collecting and storing CO2

. Education & human capital: identifying the fields of co-operation and the opportunities for coordination, providing a general framework, evaluating progress.

. Establishing a preamble reaffirming the basic principles (reiterating the bad North-South overtones, the new philosophy of this interaction). Topics of shared interest (starting with convergences between BRICS): safety (crises management); food safety; untapped natural resources; energy, the climate and ecology… with a rationale of contribution to growth (the BRICS won’t accept Western diktats in this field if it adversely affects their growth).

. Platform of exchange between the representatives of civil society

. Promotion of a Euro-BRICS multilateral platform for research and innovation

. Promotion of cultural exchanges (Louvres style…)

. Planning within this partnership’s framework so that it also serves to warn of/anticipate crises (food, safety, social…). Putting the tools in place for collaboration in scientific fields.

. Converting the outstanding questions within the bilateral framework into questions for the new multilateral framework

. Africa: towards a dialogue over policies led by the Euro-BRICS players in the region to create synergies and limit conflicts of interest

. IMF reform, The Doha Round; technology exports

. Pathway to the future: the rebuilding of a more protective and preventive world financial system.

B. Paul, M. Timmermans, B. de Sonis, M-H Caillol



[1] Jean Bodin in « The Republic »

[2] In alphabetical order

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