17 april 2008

Russian ambassador Vadim Borisovitch Lukov's lecture in Leuven last Monday (Vincent De Roeck)

After years of continuously professionalizing our organization and reinventing the Liberal Flemish Students Organization (LVSV) as a young dynamic think tank, we decided to join the Stockholm Network in 2007. After having established a solid reputation at home, we are now looking abroad, trying to put the LVSV forward on the international level. In 2006, the LVSV restarted its international activities by activating its dormant membership of LYMEC and IFLRY. In 2007, the LVSV succeeded in establishing a “Mises Youth Club” within the Brussels based think tank “Ludwig von Mises Institute Europe” and attended dozens of seminars and congresses in Europe and North America. In July 2007, the LVSV organized a week-long “Liberty Seminar” for 60 international students and in August 2008, a second edition will be organized in Leuven in cooperation with the "Institute of Economic Studies" and the "Cato Institute".

Throughout the recent years, the LVSV succeeded in getting the most important public figures to Leuven for debates and conferences, including leading politicians and academics, or captains of industry, from Guy Verhofstadt to Etienne Davignon, from Boudewijn Bouckaert to Filip Dewinter, and from Rudy Thomaes to André Oosterlinck. After an unsuccessful attempt to invite the Chinese ambassador last year, we tried it again this year with H.E. Vadim Borisovitch Lukov, the ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Belgium, and with more success. International officer Denis Van Den Weghe made it possible for the LVSV to host for the very first time in its 35-year long history a lecture given by an ambassador. Over a hundred people gathered last Monday in Leuven to listen to the ambassador.

Vadim Borisovitch Lukov graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and worked for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs ever since. After ambassadorships in South Africa and at the G-8, he was appointed ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Belgium in Brussels in 2004. He also authored two books on international issues ("Russia in the Leaders' Club" - 2002, and "The G-8" - 2004) and speaks five languages.

The following report of ambassador Lukov’s lecture in Leuven is written by LVSV international officer Denis Van Den Weghe.

Russia, the country of the emerging BRIC-countries closest to Europe both in terms of geography and mentality, with recent presidential elections seemed for us a dreamed topic for conversation in the economic and political circumstances we live in. Today, we from the West, start realizing more and more that Russia is ‘back in business’, while it was never really away. The economy is flourishing like never before, as we could deduct from the very impressive facts and figures that Mr. Lukov showed us during his presentation. On the international arena Russia is standing proud and straight, as a world power where you cannot deal around. The economy is providing an important backbone in this process but the Russians themselves are the underlying drive of all this.

The population of Russia has endured a lot of misery and pain over the past centuries and this has made them strong. However, during the 8 years of the Putin-era, the Russians have regained there pride of a great nation, of wich a lot was lost during the nineties. This is clearly showing in the reversed brain-drain of Russian scientists, managers and entrepreneurs coming back to their Motherland because of their belief in a better future wich they want to be part of. A new phase has begun for Russia by the election of Mr. Dmitry Anatolyevitch Medvedev as the new president (ca 70% of the votes). Mr. Lukov came to Leuven to give us a little inside peak in the economic, social and political program of his new president. Russia wants to become the world’s fifth economy by 2020. This is for sure ambitious, but not unrealistic when we see what path they have behind them now, and the effort they are putting into it.

By investing a lot in infrastructure and education fighting corruption effectively and creating a favorable investment climate, the foundations for consistent growth and a stabile economy are being laid. The export of raw materials and energy resources as oil, gas, minerals and steel is still very important today but is however diminishing in relative percentages because of huge growth in car and aircraft industries. Russia is betting on long-lasting growth for the future and is therefore investing a great deal in knowledge-intensive industries, among them nanotechnology. The population of Russia is not that big and, as in many European countries, it is undergoing decrease. The shift to less labor-intensive industries is therefore the right choice to make for a secure future.

All this growth and added value has resulted in better living conditions for the average Russian and many people have been leveraged from the poverty line. We all acknowledge that not all Russians live in good conditions yet but we have to look at the overall facts of improvement. Developing countries have the hard task of carrying the weight of history but improvement is, without a doubt, present in today’s Russia and it is continuing at the same pace. The presentation was ended with the possibility to ask questions by the audience. Topics were ‘a return to the Cold War’, ‘dangers for economic stagnation’ and ‘attention for the educational system’. Mr. Lukov had a satisfying answer on all of them.

It seems that prejudices concerning Russia are often fueled by the media and doom-thinkers. However, when looking at the facts with an objective view, every reasonable person understands that there is mainly good intention coming from our Russian neighbor. Of course they want to protect their sovereignty and their borders, don’t we want the same? Before making an opinion about certain matters, we should always try to see trough the glasses of the second party too. This helps to understand some reactions. Mr. Lukov made this very clear to us. Inflation and a shortage in labor forces are two important facts that Russia will have to deal with if wants to sustain his growth. However, we in Europe, face quite the same problems, be it that our position is even more insecure. The future will show how Russia and Europe independently, will or will not effectively deal with them.

In the nineties there was a shift away from sciences, going towards law, accountancy and banking. People thought these sectors would give them security. The educational system in Russia was being looked after with great care since Mr. Putin came to power in the year 2000. Since then luckily, because of growing importance of the knowledge-economy, it became interesting again to learn for engineer or scientific researcher. Teachers are paid more and on time. Last year 60,000 classes were equipped with computers and the goal is to link them all to the internet next year. Russia is a huge country with remote areas so it cannot be said the process will be easy but the will to do so is present because they know the reward will be far greater.

A very interesting evening was concluded with an amateur-video, shot by Mr. Lukov himself, playing a paparazzo for the occasion of the take off of a rocket somewhere in Russia. An explosive end of an exciting evening that included a hundred attentive listeners!

Meer over de Russische ambassadeur op www.belgium.mid.ru.
Meer teksten van Vincent De Roeck op www.libertarian.be.


At 17/4/08 09:50, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Ik heb het hier al eens gezegd, dat arrogant kleinburgerlijk gedoe van de "liberale studenten" steekt tegen. Wanneer gaan ze eens beseffen dat het allemaal vaderkindjes zijn, en verder gewone nobodies die nog niets gerealiseerd hebben in hun leven en vijf jaar (of zes of zeven, want een jaartje bissen, who gives a damn?) leven op kosten van de belastingbetalers. Maar dan wel ergens de misplaatste arrogantie hebben om zich als "denktank" te profileren, of om mooi weer te maken met ambassadeurs, politici, edellieden of haute finance-adepten als Davignon. Of om met de afgedankte BMW's van hun ouders naar Brussel rijden om er in vijfsterrenhotels congressen bij te wonen enzo. En dan verschieten we dat onze politici vandaag al te weinig inlevingsvermogen en werkelijkheidsbesef hebben. Wat zal dat binnenkort zijn als deze liberale jongeren volwassen zijn en échte macht hebben... Ik houd mijn hart vast.

At 17/4/08 11:29, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Wat de Hugo's van deze wereld allemaal ook mogen uitbraken aan kritiek en veralgemeningen doet er eigenlijk niets toe. Zij zijn "de darmflora van de maatschappij" om het met de woorden van LVB te zeggen, en hun opvattingen hebben doorgaans zero impact.

Ik vind het best knap van het LVSV dat ze alweer een topper hebben kunnen binnenrijven, zeker een ambassadeur van een échte grootmacht die daarenboven recentelijk de internationale politiek wist te domineren. Ik kon er zelf niet geraken maandag, en als ik het verslag van die Denis lees, heb ik er spijt van. Het was kennelijk toch wel een uitgelezen kans om meer te weten te komen over de Russische politiek van iemand die letterlijk "in het midden van de storm" staat als diplomaat. Next time, I 'll definitely be there!

At 18/4/08 00:42, Anonymous Anoniem said...

Kijk Hugo, je hebt de vrijheid deze blog niet meer dagelijks te lezen als deze gemotiveerde en denkende studenten je zo hard irriteren. Maar ik denk net dat het wat zin geeft om elke dag lekker van achter je pc deze en ander blogs te lezen en ongefundeerde en nutteloze kritiek te spuien. Misschien had je wel bij het LVSV moeten gaan, dan kon je nu die tijd iets nuttiger opvullen.


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