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Executive summary - What agenda for a Euro-BRICS summit by 2015?

by Open-Publishing - Tuesday 28 June 2011
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Europe Governments

Executive summary - What agenda for a Euro-BRICS summit by 2015?

Executive summary* - 5th GlobalEurope EU-Russia Seminar (Moscow, May 23-24, 2011)


During two days, academics, experts and diplomats from Russia, EU, India, China, Brazil and South-Africa [1] were gathered in the framework of the 5th GlobalEurope EU-Russia on the theme « Which agenda for a Euro-Brics Summit by 2015? » organized jointly by the Laboratoire Européen d’Anticipation Politique (LEAP), “Russkiy Mir” Foundation and the European Studies Institute of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) in partnership with the Europe 2020 network and in cooperation with the Institute of Europe of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Association of European Studies and Department of Oriental Studies of the MGIMO-University.

Programme and participants

The priorities of the May 2011 seminar involved three strategic areas:

1. Presentation of the convergence points in terms of Euro-Russian global governance

2. Identification of Euro-BRICS strategic themes in monetary, financial and economic fields

3. Initiation of a Euro-BRICS scheme as regards global governance adapted to the requirements of the XXIst century

Why a Euro-Brics Summit by 2015?

The world continues to pass through a historical crisis which marks the end of the systems and power relationships that have dominated the world since the end of the Second World War. The dynamic at the heart of these events of quickening globalization and unbridled market expansion of these last twenty years have just collapsed. International relations in all areas (finance, the economy, currencies, strategy, diplomacy...) have been subjected to an unprecedented rebalancing for several decades.

This new global context puts the EU-Russia partnership in an entirely new perspective. Whether for peaceful management of the tensions that are bound to exist between two groups of such geopolitical importance, or to help rebuild a system of global governance adapted to the requirements of the XXIst century, the European Union and Russia now know that they are two of the key players counted on not only by their own people, but also by many other regions of the world, to instil new stabilizing prospects into the present world’s increasing anarchy.

It was in discussing this topic at the 4th GlobalEurope EU-Russia seminar held in Nice in September 2010 (see the executive summary) that gave birth to the idea to further explore the likely content of a possible Euro-BRICS summit, which would at least bring together the core of the EU, namely the Euroland countries, and countries grouped around the BRICS concept, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa from 2011. With 2011 likely marking a sharp increase in the global crisis and a G20 which is now trying to address the central issue of a new international monetary system, Russia and Euroland (and beyond the EU) are in a unique strategic position to think, without preconceived ideas, of the forms that the global architecture of the XXIst century could take, and integrate emerging world powers in this thought. This first seminar on a future Euro-Brics Summit provided the opportunity for this.

What « Euro » are we talking about in « Euro-Brics »?

First of all, let’s clarify what’s covered at this stage by the term "Euro" in the Euro-BRICS dialog. In the beginning (at least during the preparation of the first Euro-BRICS summit: 2011-2013), it is likely that this won’t be the EU but rather Euroland. It is around the Franco-German core (of which the German-French-Russian summits of these last two years is a forerunner, knowing that with the current idea of involving Poland - a future Euroland member -, these could easily serve as a matrix for the future Euro-BRICS summit), and more generally Euroland which knows that the BRICS constitute the most important external support for the Euro, that the European axis of Euro-BRICS dynamics will be built. Then, between 2012 and 2016, once the process has got under way, the Euro candidate countries, that’s to say almost everyone except the United Kingdom, will join the Euroland heart of the Euro-BRICS talks.

The EU institutions in Brussels, in particular the European Commission, will be divided on the subject and will try to slow the process down without daring to oppose it publicly. But within the European institutions themselves and especially in their immediate environment (economic lobbies in particular), the pressure is rising in the opposite direction: businesses as well as major European investors want to get closer to BRICS as quickly as possible. As a powerful Euroland institutional investor recently pointed out: with an average of 8% to 10% growth over the next decade in the BRICS and 1% to 2% in the US at best, the discussion is already over for European economic and financial circles. We should never forget that, when one wants to anticipate European choices, it’s very often commercial choices: the five hundred year period which we are now leaving, that of European global expansion, was first conditioned by commercial choices. Politics, religion, civilization were always far behind this decisive motivation. The historical period which is beginning will follow the European’s same basic impulse, especially as commercial expectations are turning into crucial economic and social security issues.

Teachings promoting optimism about the relevance of the Euro-Brics concept: Towards a Euro-Brics Summit in 2014 rather than 2015?

The lessons of this first Euro-BRICS working session on the issue of the agenda for a future summit bringing together the leaders involved are remarkably rich. Four of them in particular deserve the full attention of European and BRICS policy makers and players:

1. The richness, variety and novelty of the Euro-BRICS exchanges initiated on this occasion contrast with the poverty, uniformity and triviality of traditional exchanges between Europeans and each of the BRICS countries individually, or even between Europeans and Americans within the framework of the transatlantic relationship of the last twenty years

2. The absence at the core of current international organisations of an equivalent dialogue between the European network, multi-national, structured and institutionalized (and even semi-state like at Euroland level) and the rapidly developing multi-national BRICS network

3. The shared sentiment of an unmatched potential power of influence in world affairs with a Euro-BRICS dialogue directly representing half the planet’s inhabitants, 3.5 billion people; and four continents indirectly (Asia, South America, Africa, Europe)

4. The striking convergence on many key issues concerning global governance and the major global challenges of the coming decades.  

These findings allow being optimistic as to the relevance of the Euro-Brics concept. Indeed it’s something to identify a strong trend, to anticipate that it leads to a crossroads that can steer the world towards a better or, on the contrary a catastrophic, post-crisis situation according to the choices made, and it’s something else to see in practice that those involved in this potential trend are able to interact constructively, or are even positively surprised by the advantage of such a dialogue once begun.

This is so true that a first conclusion to these general remarks could be that the holding of the first Euro-Brics Summit seems more likely to take place in 2014 than in 2015. In fact, in such a promising environment for dialogue, the deepening of the crisis by the end of 2011 and the election of leaders in a number of countries involved, particularly in the Eurozone, will speed up the process.

Since 2006 the BRICS have established a real system of meetings at different levels on a growing number of subjects: Ambassadors to the Security Council, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and, since the Sanya BRICS summit, also regular meetings of Health, Agriculture and Finance ministers, and officials in charge of National Security, ... not to mention the launching of a twinning towns programme; and finally, the creation of new study centres specialized in the BRICS in several universities.

Then on, we can anticipate an increase in informal, high-level meetings between senior civil servants and economic and financial policymakers from Euroland on the one hand and from BRICS individually on the other about a possible Euro-BRICS summit. On the BRICS side, the subject could be addressed simultaneously in discussions between diplomats and economic and political leaders. Then, under the blow of the deepening crisis and the change in political leadership, especially in Euroland, from the second half of 2012, we could see the first informal diplomatic discussions on a possible summit, supported by individual or joint messages from European and BRICS economic and financial leaders. In 2013, a date and venue could be proposed and adopted so that the first Euro-BRICS summit can be held in 2014.

Richness, variety and novelty of Euro-BRICS exchanges

All the participants in this first Euro-BRICS meeting were struck by the richness of the exchanges, contrary to many international meetings which are just an opportunity to repeat speeches, analyses or proposals which have already been heard a thousand times. Undeniably, the BRICS countries bring projects, demands and views of the world that Europeans don’t usually hear.

Barely four or five years ago, the Europeans were only holding bilateral discussions with each of the BRICS, and generally did so unilaterally laying down the limits of the debate even imposing the subject matter, at least on large global issues (global governance, climate, trade, economics, finance, ...). Today, after three years of crisis that has left the West in tatters and plunged Europe into a serious crisis, whilst the BRICS are stepping out economically, a discussion with all five BRICS requires from the Europeans humbleness openness, an ability to listen and, consequently, discovery.

This reality is reinforced by the extreme diversity of the BRICS countries, just as much internally for each of them, as externally between them. It is a "multilogue" as much as a dialogue and it rests, paradoxically, on the historical and linguistic ease of Europeans to speak with most of the BRICS. Europeans share large swathes of history with each of the BRIC countries (China being a separate case). And at the core of the BRICS Russia has, of course, a special place in the rationale of Euro-BRICS cooperation. It is both European (even if outside the EU) and BRICS, its strategic priorities putting the development of the BRICS network in second place ... after Euro-Russian cooperation.  

The Euro’s multinational network and the Brics’ multinational network: A balanced dialogue

If Europe, whether in EU or Euroland format, can often seem discordant it is, nevertheless, organized. Compared to the diversity of the BRICS and the youth of their network, the Europeans are a homogeneous pivot, especially Euroland. Regarding the BRICS network, the discussions revealed that there is both a huge need for mutual discovery between its members and a tremendous dynamic aimed at multiplying the points of contact, the processes of linking beyond the diplomatic-political origin of the BRICS. The participants agreed on the idea that 2011/2012 will be transition years at the core of the BRICS network, significantly increasing the critical mass of economic, financial, academic, and political players involved in the BRICS networks.

A network being essentially a tool, the BRICS are in the process of forging this tool in two key areas requiring this expansion of the "social" base of the BRICS network:

. a tool for transforming global governance and rebalancing it in their favor;

. an instrument to grow the direct links between them, which should no longer be dependent on Western intermediaries as it used to be for some BRICS in the past decades.

This duality explains the initial feeling of uncertainty ahead of the BRICS concept. This feeling has been largely fueled by the western press which first sought to doubt any geopolitical relevance in the BRICS concept before having to admit in recent months that it’s now an inescapable reality (the Sanya Summit of April 2011 was the first BRICS summit to enjoy substancial media coverage in the West). But it is undeniable that everyone, including players from the BRICs themselves, wondered at first how such a harnessing, as gigantic as it’s heterogeneous, would be able to "go the distance".

Then, the growing practical experience of these BRICS meetings established this dual nature of the "BRICS phenomenon":

. a deliberate medium-term (less than a decade) policy making the BRICS the instrument of crucial change in the major balances and mechanisms of global governance invented by Goldman Sachs for its own benefit,

. an underlying long term (a generation: twenty years) operation also involving the other sectors of society of each BRICS country, aiming to directly reconnect the key parts of the world-after-the-crisis on patterns which are no longer “Western-centred”.

The tool thus serves two purposes, with two different deadlines and will be used by two different types of players. Moreover the second objective can collide with the policy makers’ will at the origin of the first objective. Indeed to establish programmes of regular contact between NGOs, civil society and students from different BRICS countries is not necessarily to the taste of all BRICS leaders. But the coherence of a political-historical instrument is built with time and action. It is not given in advance. Just look at European unification...  

However, like in the case of European unification, one can identify an existential pressure for the BRICS network: it is necessary for it to be constructive, possibly in a daring manner (that’s to say, pushing forcefully an item on the international agenda if necessary to be heard), but it cannot be destructive or aggressive. Beyond their common claim about a moral responsibility over world’s development and peace, this is simply due to the disparate nature of the strategic interests and motivations of the five countries involved. Their relations with the "West", master of the world in full decline, are not the same: some like Brazil, South Africa and India have complex relations with the West, while Russia and China have a long history of strategic confrontation with this West [2] . The Euro-BRICS rationale can serve as an intermediary to these two BRICS internal trends since Europe has been, for the last sixty years, nothing else more than the eastern march of this primarily American West, while offering a unique ability, that of being able to be heard by Washington.

An unrivalled potential of influence over global affairs (3.5 bn people and 4 continents directly or indirectly represented)

If the BRICS directly represent three billion people, already 50% of world oil consumption, 75% of the expected economic growth in the next ten years, huge energy, mineral and agricultural reserves, 35% of global GDP (probably 50% within 10 years) and world trade, 53% of direct foreign investment, etc ..., the participants notices that they are actually even more important than that because several of them are actually the key players of regional and/or continental integration processes, in fact privileged representatives of whole regions or continents: China with the East and South-East Asia, Brazil with South America, South Africa with the whole of the African continent and Russia with a part of Central Asia.

Meanwhile Europe continues to be the world’s leading economic and trade group, the region having both the largest savings and the greatest political stability, the economic and trade group with the most multilateral experience and aspiring to global polycentrism for many years. Finally, thanks to Euroland, it’s the entity that has the only international reserve currency as an alternative to the dollar. Should there be a single link that legitimizes Euro-BRICS dialogue at the highest level, it’s the Euro. Not only does its international success owe much to the BRICS’ enthusiasm, headed by China, to diversify their reserves out of the US dollar, but one can say that the BRICs have also been able to appear as a "geopolitical force" because the Euro’s existed. It is de facto the Euro, which opened a breach in the "Dollar Wall", a breach that the BRICS have been able to quickly enlarge using their new wealth to stimulate the European alternative to the US currency.

This unintended convergence of destinies, which merely reflects the overlap of the ends of two epochs, that of the post-1945 American world and the world of the European-centered world since the XVIth century, is undoubtedly one of the historical advantages of the future Euro-BRICS summit: Europeans, Russians, Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and South Africans really are the required and sufficient forces to rebuild a global governance adapted to the XXIst century.

The big question is, of course, whether they will be able to do it before the world starts fragmenting into opposing regional blocs, driving an emergent multipolar structure into a state of an unstable and dangerous balance-of-power conundrum.

We shouldn’t forget that many of the BRICS countries have strategic interests that can become controversial depending on the global context, more or less confrontational: Russia and China have a major geopolitical issue over Siberia and its riches, India and China experience chronic border tensions; Brazil and Russia, producer countries on the one hand, China and India consumer countries on the other can have very different objectives in terms of commodity prices,… The BRICS concept thus has a basic need of a global context of cooperation in order to develop. Another factor which militates in favor of a strong Euro-BRICS cooperation; Europe being a player which traditionally fosters international cooperation.

At the same time the BRICS rationale is one that overcomes the East-West divide of ideological and civilizational dichotomy and emerges as an embodiment of the interests of all humanity as far as the development, poverty erradication, environmental protection, education and health reforms are concerned.

A promotion of human rights in the BRICS countries will serve as a stimulus for a better and more just world governance of the XXIst century.

Nine themes for the agenda of a future Euro-Brics Summit

In the framework of this first Euro-Brics seminar, the last session consisted of a general brain-storming panel aimed at identifying themes of common interest, therefore likely to provide the basis to the agenda of a first Euro-Brics Summit. The following nine key points were identified:

1. Reforms of world governance (IMF, Security Council [3] , WTO, World Bank,…) in order to adapt these institutions (their methods as well as their management structures) to the XXIst century

2. Reform of the international monetary system (putting in place a system managing several reserve currencies, global cohesion for the monetary and financial system, better analysis of global systemic risk…)

3. Reform of the global management of the « Trade and investment » duo (rebalancing of the rules protecting national markets)

4. Initiatives for a world social balance (determined integration of the social dimension, domestically and externally, in major international agreements)

5. Initiatives to reinforce « Human security » (protection from natural disasters, trafficking in human beings, assuring humans’ basic needs, food chain security…)

6. Initiatives to reign in world finance (limitation on pay and bonuses for financial activities, control of international financial flows…)

7. Creation of Euro-BRICS university exchange programmes

8. Scientific and technological cooperation, especially in the fight against global warming, the conquest and management of outer space, the sources of new and alternative energy

9. Improvement in the global management of people’s migration and mobility

These issues are all undeniably important in order to organize the world in a sustainable fashion after the crisis. However, several of them would be immediately discarded or emptied of their substance via the framework of summits like the G20 because their effective treatment (that’s to say, leading to real solutions and not statements of intent) requires:

1°/ the ability to analyze them without taking into account the conflicting interests of some countries that benefit in a way from the current malfunctioning: This is the familiar problem of the impossibility of implementing serious reform of global financial and monetary system as long as the US and the UK block any attempt to revise the assumptions on which the current system is based which, however, date from an era which is in the process of coming to a close

2°/ to be able to overcome some systematic vetoes on certain issues: The social theme is typical of this category since the United States consistently opposes considering the social issue as anything other than collateral damage of an economic and financial rationale. On this subject, the BRICS undeniably have a growing convergence with the European model that attempts to address the social question as the other side of the economic coin.

The discussions which took place during the seminar showed that many topics can engender strong opposition between Europeans and BRICS; but it is also why they should be discussed, bearing in mind that to solve a problem one must first agree on its existence.

To conclude, the Euro-BRICS’ potential would be sufficient to generate an irresistible momentum at the heart of the G20, an institution now sinking in impotence through the inability to "call a spade a spade" and unable to put the key issues of global world governance after the crisis on the summits’ agenda.

* LEAP/E2020 takes full responsibility for this document

[1] The latter were only observers via their diplomats.

[2] Indeed BRICS countries cannot go under the category of formerly dependent countries: neither one served as a satellite to the West. Russia in the form of the USSR constituted the whole pole, China being communist never was subject to the Soviet ‘brother’, India was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Probably apart from apartheid South Africa, which was sponsored by the USA and UK, the rest of the states presented independent centers of power. On the other hand, none of the BRICS interests are identical and having Western countries as their important economic, trading and political partners, it makes it impossible, for the time being at least, to take major decisions without any consideration of the Western views. But that is what in turn makes the EU even more important as a partner, since it is seen as relatively neutral, not intrusive and open to dialog.

[3] A Euro-BRICS cooperation could help the world community to understand that it can no longer avoid reforming the Security Council by increasing the number of permanent members and by adding to them Brazil and India. Meanwhile, Euro-BRICS cooperation could help Europe finally understand that it can no longer avoid getting one common seat at the Security Council. That’s also what the “world after the crisis” is about.


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