„Europe and Russia - Partners in a Globalized World“

Session VII - Education for Global Citizenship and Sustainable Peace

Vienna, 12-13 October 2012



Europe and Russia -  Societal Development and Capacity-Building for Otherness

Dr. Walther Lichem


         The development of relations between Europe and the Russian Federation has to be analysed in the context of the profound societal and related political changes and developments which have marked the European integration over the past five decades. The following key elements of these changes have defined this process:

o        There has taken place a growing “horizontalization” of our political and societal structures marked by a replacement of command and obedience by patterns of democratic interaction on the basis of equality

o        Dictatorships which marked the history of many European powers during the 20th century have given way to democratic processes and related state structures.

o        Related to these structural changes are changes in the power elements which define interactions and the results of relations between states. Visions, values, knowledge and understanding and related capacities for partnering with other state- and non-state actors have received a new focus as “soft power”.

o        Human rights and freedoms have become the core constitutional principles at national, but also at local, regional and global levels. Human rights have become universal. Historical references to human rights in Africa (the constitution of Kourukan Fouka) and Latin America (Fray Bartolomé de las Casas) have gained new recognition including in the context of European developments. Human rights are therefore not to be understood as a “Western culture” but as a “Universal Heritage” which are to define the interactions and relations between countries and regions..

o        These developments have also been marked by a growing role and contributions from non-state partners in governance processes. This has become particularly pertinent in the development of new patterns of international and global relations and the related agendas. In fact we are to recognize a growing responsibility of the citizen in the development and regarding the quality of inter-societal/inter-national relations.

o        The capacity for otherness of societies are not only defining the national political processes but mark the general responses of societies and states to the growing trans-national interdependencies.


         Another fundamental change in the basic framework within which European interactions and the process of integration have taken place is the “relativisation” of identity. The “nation state” conceived as a static, single-identity society has been replaced by societies whose identities are based on multiple identity-shaping elements including language, place of residence, religion, education, profession, mobility and encounters with otherness. This process led to a needed recognition of a plurality of identities in each European society. In the Austrian capital Vienna more than 30 % of the population is not Austrian-born. In Barcelona 400 different languages are spoken by the people living in this Catalan city in permanent residence.


         The pluri-identity society is led by persons who have been able to develop pluri-identity personalities, disposing of more than just one identity due to personal multi-linguism, changing residences and the variety of societal partners. The Slovenian-speaking people in the South of Austria cherish a proverb according to which one is as many times a human being as many languages one speaks.


         This relativisation not only of personal and societal identities and hence the supposed criteria for responses to  the issue of “belonging” as well as  the enhanced role of the citizen in shaping trans-national interactions and cooperation have allocated to the citizen a growing role and responsibility and political importance. Human rights, human development and human security reflect a development which is understood in the terms of Mahbub Ul Haq as a process towards a broadening spectrum of choice, i.e. towards freedom. The European integration therefore had to be based on a recognition of the interdependence between freedom and human rights. There can be no democracy without an effective system of human rights. Accepting human rights, self-determinedness and democratic political processes have become the basis for new shared identities at regional level and hence the basis for intra-regional cross-identification and solidarity.


         Processes of European integration with the Russian Federation as a key partner will thus unavoidably contain dimensions of societal development. Belonging to the European region requires a

  • A recognition of identity plurality both within one’s own society and statehood and in the context of the European region
  • The processes of relating to otherness will require societal integration which recognizes the basic right to identity plurality replacing the concept of assimilation.
  • The European community is marked by a plurality of identities in each society  recognizing the various articulations of otherness as an asset.
  • The framework within which pluri-identity societies achieve societal cohesion, security and peace is the broad-based recognition of values providing human dignity and inclusion to all segments of society.
  • The Council of Europe has assumed the role of the portal institution towards participation in the broader European community. The basis of this organisation’s membership is not marked by ethnic, linguistic, religious sameness but simply by a shared affirmation of those core values on which national governance and intra-societal relations and the relations with the other countries in the region are to be shaped. Russia’s relations with Europe are therefore considerably defined by the achievements regarding these European core values and principles - human rights and democracy.


         The larger European region has to be marked by a recognition of diversity, of peaceful interaction, cooperation and solidarity on the basis of sovereign equality.  The implementation of the commitments which the Russian Federation has assumed with its membership in the Council of Europe will provide the very basis on which the enhanced cooperation is to be implemented. Human rights and democracy will, however, also have its impact on the joint engagement of the European Union and the Russian Federation in issues of our Global Agenda.


         Any society-based process of enhancing cooperation and implementing a process of regional integration with the Russian Federation requires, however, the development of societal capacities for knowing and understanding the other - the Russians, their history, culture, challenges and responses and - the Europeans  in their broad diversity yet unified by the commonality of values.


         The need for recognizing regional learning processes for a sustainable peaceful regional partnership and integration is to be implemented both in the countries of the Western European community and in the Russian Federation. Such socialization towards a broader Europe will require education, learning and socialization providing knowledge and understanding of the other, such as

  • Education programmes in schools on the history, culture of societies and states in the larger European space
  • Providing an understanding of the human dignity of the other as an asset and a source of enrichment
  • Strengthening the role of civil society in these processes of societal development
  • Recognizing the crucial role of non-state partners in these processes of European integration, including

-          the media, understanding the key role of media in the development and change of societal perceptions of the other

-          academia and related study programmes. There is a need for enhanced knowledge in these processes of  societal development

-          recognize the rising role of the private sector’s partnerships and engagements in public space and

-          the cultural capacities of each society are an  important carrier of the concept of otherness as an asset.

-          granting local and regional authorities a platform of interaction and thus bringing the European partnership with the Russian Federation to the personalized level of local politics;

-          a good case would be the fostering of the establishment of human rights cities in Europe and in the Russian Federation as the basis for partnerships and cooperation


         There is thus a need for a new focus in the development of relations between Europe and the Russian Federation. This new focus should be based on an improved understanding of the other by

  • Enhanced involvement of the societal non-state structures and processes in this relationship towards societal capacities for otherness, freedom, human rights, democracy and self-determinedness in a shared community
  • Mutual support in these processes, making societal development an inclusive regional concern marked by interaction and multi-dimensional relatedness
  • Avoiding processes behind the walls of “national sovereignty” and conducting intra-regional interaction in a setting of openness, interest and cross-identification.
  • Creating platforms for jointly addressing Global Agenda issues leading to an enhanced coordination of foreign policy and global responsibility.