SPIEF is canceled. What are the chances of the SCO and BRICS summits?
The governor of St. Petersburg Alexander Beglov, following the Moscow authorities, banned mass events from March 16 to April 30, 2020. The relevant decree is published on the website of the city government. It provides for a ban on any gatherings of over a thousand people. This is stricter than in the capital. There the restrictive threshold is five thousand people. In addition, the document recommends that employers refrain from events involving foreigners.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, which has departed this life, was scheduled for June 3-6, that is, beyond the restrictive period. Why was it so hastily canceled, and will the St. Petersburg summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the BRICS Association, scheduled for July 21-23, 2020, share the same fate?
Judging by the statement of Anton Kobyakov, executive secretary of the organizing committee for the preparation and provision of Russia’s chairmanship in these international associations, published on the Roskongress website, the SCO and BRICS are not under the threat of cancellation because of coronavirus. In particular, he stated that “compound solutions” were found that would allow the upcoming events “with absolute safety for delegates and guests”.
Kobyakov’s statement was published on the day of the meeting of the government operational command unit on the prevention of the spread of coronavirus infection in Russia. Therefore, the organizing committee most likely took into account the tightening of anti-epidemic measures introduced since March 11, and the new status of the COVID-19 problem, which was announced by the head of the World Health Organization Tedros Gebreisus at a briefing in Geneva. He recognized the outbreak of the virus as a pandemic, that is, a particularly dangerous epidemic that swept almost through the entire world.
The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) was canceled before the pandemic was announced and restrictions on public events were introduced. This decision was caused not so much by the concern for the health of the delegates as by the high probability of mass refusals from the guests of the forum.
It looks like the organizers, who intended to report again on the signing of agreements on trillions of rubles (the amount of contracts concluded last year exceeded 3.2 trillion), were perplexed by the prospect of a significant reduction in this figure and, as a result, a possible loss of the status of a central Russian event in the economy and business. Commenting on the cancellation of SPIEF-2020, the vice-governor of St. Petersburg Yevgeny Elin compared the significance of the forum for the city with the premiere of a new performance. This year, the ceremonial ceremony would certainly have been “blurred.”
Interestingly, a message about its cancellation appeared on the website of Roscongress (the main organizer) five days after it was reported in the press. Moreover, the emphasis was placed on the fact that the event will be held in 2021, as if it is held every four years, like the World Cup and simply postponed to a later date. Such an interpretation provoked a series of sarcastic comments among users of the Facebook social network.
There is no doubt that the meetings within the framework of the BRICS and the SCO countries are comparable in terms of status and number of participants to SPIEF. In this regard, a logical question arises: why is one forum being canceled and the other is not? It could probably be due to the fact that delegates from China, Brazil, South Africa and India are somewhat more interested in collaboration than their counterparts from countries with a post-industrial economy?
Be that as it may, Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on March 10 that “no decisions have been made to cancel the summits of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and BRICS due to the situation with the spread of coronavirus.”
The program of events dedicated to the July congresses in Russia is being implemented in full. On March 6, a forum of BRICS young parliamentarians took place in St. Petersburg. A little earlier, meetings of the SCO ministers on environmental protection, a session of the Committee of Senior Officials of the BRICS Countries on Energy and many other meetings of various formats took place. In total, about two hundred events are scheduled before the end of 2020 in 13 Russian cities.
Unlike their American and European counterparts, who easily abandoned the idea of visiting SPIEF, delegates from the BRICS group of states are not going to scatter opportunities. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, they plan to arrive in Russia in order to take the integration process to a new level. It is not only about politicians or businessmen, but also about scientists.
The higher school of China is extremely interested in becoming part of the BRICS Summit, since it is important for us to develop cooperation with universities from Russia and other countries of the group. Unfortunately, the beginning of the school year, which usually starts in China in February, has been postponed; our students and postgraduate students are officially on vacation. But we hope that the situation will soon get normal and our delegation will come to St. Petersburg. At the moment, the issue of canceling our visit is not on the agenda and is not even being discussed.
Head of International Department, China University of Mining and Technology (CUMT) Zhekang Zhang’
This university became the coordinator of the national selection round of the “Actual Problems of Subsoil Use” competition, which will be held as part of the BRICS summit at St. Petersburg Mining University. This youth forum is organized by the International Competence Centre for Mining Engineering Education under the auspices of UNESCO. Each BRICS country is ready to present works of its students at the forum. The task of Mr. Zhang and his colleagues includes the search for the best hundred Chinese young scientists who are engaged in scientific research in the field of mining, processing and transportation of minerals, environmental protection, and improving labor safety at mining enterprises. In the city on the Neva, each of them should make a report on their scientific research to their peers and experts.
The official representative of the PRC Health Committee Mi Feng has already said that the peak of the development of the Covid-19 epidemic in the Celestial Empire has already been passed. That is, the probability of holding the SCO and BRICS summits on the announced dates is pretty high. All delegates of the upcoming congresses are interested in such way of progress.