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    What to Expect From 2016 St. Petersburg Economic Forum

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    St.Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 (38)

    The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) will be held on June 16-18. Despite tensions between the West and Russia, a number of European politicians and representatives of major international companies are expected to attend the event.

    This year’s event will be 20th in the history of the forum. Some 10,000 participants are expected, including a number of high-profile European politicians as well as representatives of over 500 foreign companies.

    The motto of the forum is "Capitalizing on the New Global Economic Reality."

    High-Ranking Guests

    The SPIEF 2016 is more than ever about Russia’s relations with Europe. On June 16, the forum will be opened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

    After Juncker announced his plans to visit the SPIEF he has faced resistance from the United States, some European countries and even among his own staff. Several countries, including the United States, Britain, and Lithuania said the visit would be inappropriate at a delicate time of "discussions on sanctions."

    The forum will take place two weeks ahead of the summit of the European Union (June 28-29) where European leaders will decide on the extension of sanctions against Russia. 

    Juncker’s visit was officially confirmed on June 1. It is known that the politician will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines.

    Analysts noted that Juncker’s visit could be viewed as the first sign of a thaw in relations between the West and Moscow. Even European officials criticizing the move admitted that it may be the first in a series of visits by high-profile Western officials to Russia. For example, EU chief diplomat Federica Mogherini who previously cancelled a trip to Russia may visit Moscow after Juncker, sources in the European Commission said.

    In turn, the Kremlin commented on Juncker’s visit saying that it may become the first step in establishing dialogue with the EU.

    According to a source in the European Commission, during his visit, Juncker will translate to Russian officials the vision of Brussels on the current state of relations between the EU and Russia.

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi will be another major political figure to attend the forum. He will take part in a plenary mission on June 17, along with Vladimir Putin and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

    Last December, Renzi called for the removal of sanctions against Russia. According to a European diplomatic source, Italy has joined a group of European countries calling to lift sanctions, including Hungary, Greece, Cyprus, and Slovakia. It is expected that Putin and Renzi will discuss various aspects of Russian-Italian relations, including Rome’s stance toward the sanctions.

    On Wednesday, President Putin will also meet with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. He has long been a friend of Russia and played the role of a mediator, helping to resolve tensions between Moscow and the West. Sarkozy is also an opponent to sanctions imposed by Brussels against Russia.

    Busy Schedule

    During the first day of the forum, Vladimir Putin will meet with Royal Dutch Shell CEO, Ben van Beurden. The oil company is one of the biggest investors into the Russian economy ($10 billion). Its flagship project in Russia is Sakhalin 2, including shelf exploration and Russia’s first liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant.

    On the sidelines of the forum, Gazprom and Shell are expected to sign an agreement on the Baltic LNG project.

    The president will also hold a meeting with representatives of the global investment community which manages a total capital of over $10 trillion.

    Moreover, Putin will discuss with Guinean President Alpha Conde measures against the expansion of the deadly Ebola virus. In 2014, Russia was one of the first countries to send its specialists to Guinea to deal with the Ebola outbreak.

    Then the Russian president will meet with Jean-Claude Juncker. Sanctions and relations between Moscow and Brussels will be on the agenda.

    Other important issues are trade between Russia and the EU and the possibility of integration between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union. Putin and Juncker are also expected to discuss the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the possible resumption of the Russia-EU energy dialogue.

    In addition, President Putin will hold talks with Ban Ki-moon and UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura.

    Finally, Vladimir Putin will have a conversation with chiefs of international information agencies, answering questions on a wide range of issues.

    Nothing but Business

    Nevertheless, the SPIEF is, first of all, portrayed as one of the Russia’s biggest platform for economic and business discussions.

    This year, directors over 200 foreign and 600 Russian companies will take part in the forum, the organizing committee confirmed.

    According to media reports, among the list of attendees include Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser, Gunvor CEO Torbjorn Tornqvist, Metro AG chairman Olaf Koch, Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne, and Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg.

    Vladimir Putin will meet with directors of over 40 global corporations from the US, Europe, Canada, China, and Asian countries.

    Despite the turbulence in the political environment, the SPIEF remains unique economic and business event. Over the past 10 years, the forum has turned into one of the leading platform for discussions on both domestic and global issues.

    St.Petersburg International Economic Forum 2016 (38)


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