The Vienna Process (VIP)
The Vienna Process is an NGO-based venture which draws on the professional knowledge of a pool of Russian and European experts with different backgrounds and institutional affiliations, who share the objective of discussing topical issues in the relationship between Russia and the EU. Its format and working mode profits from the flexibility and independence of international civic initiatives which are not tied down by high-level politics and institutional constraints, but can also rely on their collective knowledge of relevant institutional practices. The Vienna Process generates a series of policy recommendations focusing on feasibility and viable solutions.
EU-Russian relations are currently in a diplomatic business-as-usual mode: The Crimean issue has terminally soured an already troubled relationship and Russian conduct toward the opposition and suspected political murders have further decreased the temperature in official interactions. Nevertheless, a new Cold War which is sometimes conjured up is still a distant bugbear, while the post-1991 heyday a distant memory. The virtual standstill of the various dialogues, especially in the field of energy and security, is due to different priorities of both partners and to the habit of setting advance conditions in tit-for-tat deals.
We feel, however, that some dialogues should be maintained, even if they do not yield immediate and tangible results. They imply permanent contacts and the opportunity to improve mutual understanding in the long run. However, it is equally important to support processes and initiatives which are under outside the official dialogue channels. They concern “hard” and “soft” areas such as
- Security: Trust-building measures in terms of further joint peace-keeping missions or political support for civic initiatives in conflict areas (Donbas, Caucasus, Moldova) are possible and important.
- Economy, business: More first-hand practical knowledge and know-how should be fed into the high-level dialogue.
- Education and human contacts: There is a multitude of grass root civic initiatives to make people from EU member states and Russia meet in the framework of joint educational or internship programs. These initiatives should be strengthened, particularly through facilitating visa procedures for students.
The Austrian Institute for Advanced Studies and the Russian Academy of Sciences organised a workshop in Vienna on 16-17 February to launch the Vienna Dialogue – a meeting of experts from Russia and the EU to seek ways of improving the EU-Russian relationship. Former Austrian Foreign Minister, Ursula Plassnik, talked about the lack of trust between the EU and Russia. There were too many misperceptions on both sides and hence the need to encourage people-to-people contacts. She believed that the OSCE should play a more important role and that visa liberalisation should also be encouraged.
Erhard Busek (former Austrian Vice Chancellor) suggested the EU and Russia should intensify efforts to settle the Transdniestr dispute, while Vladimir Baranovsky (Academy of Science) questioned whether a legal agreement was the best way forward for EU-Russia relations. EU-Russia Centre’s Fraser Cameron said that ‘old thinking’ was holding back the relationship. There were numerous shared interests between the EU and Russia (energy, security, environment, etc) and both sides needed to look for win-win solutions.
The EU was ready to assist Russia with the modernisation agenda, but would Russia be ready, willing and able to make the necessary internal changes that President Medvedev had identified separation of powers, rule of law, fighting corruption, strengthening civil society? Other participants included Mark Entin, Director EU Institute in Moscow, Sergei Kortunov (HSE, Russian Academy of Science), Tomas Gomart (IFRI, France), and Johannes Eigner (MFA, Austria). The Vienna Dialogue will shortly produce a statement on how to move forward in EU-Russia relations. (EU-Russia Center Bulletin, 1 March 2010).
1. What is the Vienna Process?
VIP is an international civic initiative which draws on the professional knowledge of a pool of Russian and European experts with different backgrounds and institutional affiliations, who share the objective of improving the relations between Russia and the EU.
• To produce policy recommendations on topical issues of EU-Russian relations
• To initiate a permanent expert-based dialogue in support of official dialogues
• To improve the relationship between Russia and the EU
3. Why the Vienna Process?
The VIP is a response to the stalemate in official relations. It is driven by the conviction that progress is possible and feasible by looking for new departures.
4. Mode of Operation: The VIP profits from the flexibility and independence of a civic initiative. Not all recommendations equally supported and prioritized. Its output are scientific and knowledge-based documents, which are constantly refined and improved.
In a two-step process, “hot” issues are identified and smart solutions elaborated. In its first memorandum. The pool of experts focuses on 3 dimensions: politics, economics, business. The recommendations add up to a set of proposals which may be controversial and not equally supported by all experts.
5. The VIP “niche”: Among the plethora of institutions dealing with EU-Russian relations, the Vienna process occupies a distinct position in that
• Joint pool of experts
• Flexible mode of operation
• Permanent editing committee to elaborate drafts which will be discussed by all experts
• Experts are recruited among diplomats, politicians, business persons and administrators. This provides the opportunity
• EU institutions, particularly the EC and the European Parliament
• Governmental agencies in Russia, particularly the Presidential Adminstration and the Russian Government
• EU Presidency
• International and National Business forums and agencies