The fifth session of the Eurasian Forum – entitled The Art of Innovation – was held in Verona on 20-21 October.
It brought together more than 600 delegates, including business executives, politicians, diplomats and experts from a variety of countries, including former Soviet bloc states, Russia, China and South Korea.
Antonio Fallico, President of the Chairman Board of Banca Intesa Russia, says the forum started out in 2008 as a bilateral Italian-Russian event aimed at creating new contacts and discussing areas of mutual interest.
It expanded its scope to cover Eurasia in 2012 as the focus of attention shifted to wider matters. Banca Intesa Russia and Intesa Sanpaolo have supported the organisation since its earliest days because it affects strategic markets where the banks operate.
"The problem is how to make them interact, to create a synergy between the different concepts, goals and stories"
Antonio Fallico, President of the Chairman Board of Banca Intesa Russia
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – which brings together five former Soviet republics: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia – had a significant presence at the forum, despite only being launched in 2015.
Antonio Fallico sees China’s One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative as one of the most ambitious integration projects in Greater Eurasia. It was discussed because of its potential impact on member regions.
It’s not an easy job, it’s a long-term endeavourAntonio Fallico, President of the Chairman Board of Banca Intesa Russia
An Intesa Sanpaolo research unit presented a study on the economic consequences and advantages of building a new reality for Greater Eurasia.
There are already several existing economic and trade integration projects including Asean and the Eurasia Economic Union, as well as the European Union. So it begs the question whether there will be any conflict between them.
“The problem is how to make them interact, to create a synergy between the different concepts, goals and stories. It’s not an easy job, it’s a long-term endeavour,” Fallico warns. He feels the most productive partnerships to have emerged so far as those between China and EAEU; and between Asean and EAEU.
The Banca Intesa chief sees the route through Kazakhstan, Russia and towards Europe as of strategic importance. “It is now the most secure from the political and geopolitical point of view, with no military risks. The link between OBOR and EAEU is crucial viewed from that perspective,” Fallico argues.
One of the key aims of the organisation is to develop links between different regions and find ways to build common economic space. But Europe is not part of the discussions yet. “These organisations would like to draw up compatible economic rules to include – rather than exclude – all the countries of the mega-continent. The EU does not seem to be ready for such a scenario, but we should be patient. It’s a long haul,” he explains.
For the moment, the European Commission does not have a mandate to consider alliances with other Eurasian organisations despite the fact that EAEU does and is ready to start negotiations. Fallico believes that only closer co-operation between the two organisations can bring greater economic integration.