RUSSIA’S PARLIAMENT APPLIES ITS EXPERIENCE IN EUROPE
TO ASIAN INTEGRATION


16.01.07
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Dmitry Kosyrev)

Although it is clear that integration in the Asia-Pacific region will not be the same as in Europe, it is very interesting to watch the process unfold. The next relevant event will be the 15th session of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), which will begin in Moscow on January 22.
The APPF is a conference where deputies from 27 regional parliaments voice their countries’ opinions. It was set up in 1993 at the initiative of Japan’s parliament, and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone was its first chairman. Russia joined the organization in 1993 and will host its 15th session in accordance with a decision made at the previous meeting in Indonesia. Sergei Mironov, the speaker of the upper house of Russia’s parliament, will serve as chairman.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to address the forum in the Bolshoi Theater, where the opening ceremony will be held.
The general public does not know much about such forums or other parliamentary activities. Their work takes place behind closed doors and is only a part, although an important one, of the state and social system.
Igor Rogachev, a member of the upper house of Russia’s parliament who served as Russia’s ambassador to China for 10 years, is directly involved in preparations for the session.
He said any issues may be discussed at the Moscow session, but specific results should be expected on security and the fight against terrorism, separatism and epidemics of infectious diseases, as well as on the slave trade. Russia has also proposed discussing energy security, an issue that was put on the agenda of the G8 summit in Russia last summer on the Kremlin’s initiative.
The speakers’ ideas will be incorporated in reports to their heads of state and subsequently in new laws that will be passed by members of parliament. This is the APPF’s practical contribution to global development.
Russia, however, thinks the forum can do more, and wants to take the lead in making it part of the regional political and economic system, which has been growing more uniform.
It cannot so far be compared to the European Union because the Asia-Pacific region is made up of widely different countries: the United States and China, Japan and Russia, Canada and Thailand. But this diversity is the main value of regional cooperation.
Rogachev said that Russia, 75% of whose territory is located in Asia while the bulk of its population live in the European part of the country, has accumulated considerable experience working in European integration structures. Moscow wants to use its unique experience to avoid mistakes and bring positive European integration experience to the Asia-Pacific region.
Europe has been accumulating experience in interparliamentary cooperation for decades. It has various interparliamentary structures, embracing all countries on the continent, groups of countries, and states that work together on a bilateral basis. Rogachev said the upper house of Russia’s parliament has more than 100 agreements with European parliaments. But the Asia Pacific region has only begun setting up organizations like the APPF.
One proposal is to make the APPF a standing interparliamentary forum incorporated in the largest regional organization, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Like the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the APPF may eventually acquire a secretariat and headquarters.
Another proposal provides for setting up an Asian analogue of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Russia has had a bad experience with the above two European structures, which the American and European majority have used to pressure and impose their standards on other countries. But the Kremlin also knows ways of avoiding problems institutionalized in the PACE and the OSCE.
Likewise, Russia can learn, and has been learning, from Asia’s experience. In particular, Russia, China and Central Asian states modeled the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), notably its traditions and spirit of respect for common interests and cooperation.
Rogachev said the Chinese supported these and other efforts by Russia. He said the Kremlin regularly consulted and had attained an unprecedented level of understanding with them, and a similar practice is developing in the APPF.
When he attended the APPF session in Jakarta last year for the first time, he saw the Russian and Chinese delegations interact every day, especially when the forum started discussing the Middle East conflict. As a result, the APPF adopted a declaration advocated by Moscow and Beijing, which said that the effort to tackle regional problems should be guided by the UN Security Council.
The Pacific integration structures are set up not to fight other countries or force specific views on them, but to promote equitable cooperation among all regional states. Not only Russia and China, but also nearly all other parties to the integration process, are acting in this spirit, an attitude that will ensure success.

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