Prospects for Eurasian Economic Union do not look good

Prospects for Eurasian Economic Union do not look good

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 5

By Elena Kosolapova - Trend:

The prospects for the Eurasian Economic Union do not look good because of several reasons, Jos Boonstra, Head of the Eurasia program at FRIDE think tank believes.

FRIDE (Foundation for the Foreign relations and external dialogue) is a European think tank for global action, which provides innovative thinking and rigorous analysis of key debates in international relations.

"The main challenge is to make genuine economic and trade cooperation work among the Eurasian Economic Union members and to establish beneficial relations/agreements with neighbours, foremost the EU, China and non-EEU Eurasian states, " Boonstra told Trend on Jan. 5.

The expert thinks it will be difficult to reach this aim due to several reasons.

First, he mentioned that there is a disbalance in size between Russia and other much smaller members.

"This might not be a problem economically but should the Eurasian Union ever become more political, other members will feel dominated by Russia (already the case now)," the expert said.

Second (and related to the first), the Eurasian Economic Union will remain minor and largely run by Russia as long as Ukraine and secondly Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan do not take part, as these are either economically important or populous or strategic states, Boonstra said.

At last Boonstra noted that the EEU will have a difficult start as its main member is affected by EU and US sanctions and as oil prices remain low which is the main export product of the union.

The expert agreed that the member states of the EEU will certainly get some advantages from their membership, foremost, freedom of movement of goods, capital services and people in one single market.

However, he noted that that joining the EEU at the same time poses some threats to the member states such as potential restrictions in trading with other countries; potential domination by Russia if the EEU is expanded to other policy fields (defence, foreign policy, national regulations) etc.; and difficulties due to unilateral development of the internal market of the union (mainly oil and gas sphere).

The Eurasian Union differs greatly from the EU which is also based on integration process, Boonstra believes.

He noted that unlike the EEU, in the EU new members need to be well-functioning democracies plus incorporate the EU's extensive regulations into their own national laws. Moreover they are also very different in size (about 180-million population in EEU and 500 million in the EU).

The EEU only has some economic aspects that resemble the EU but does not go beyond that, in Boonstra's opinion.

"One matter of concern is the question if the EU is ready to talk with the EEU; there is a risk that Russia will want to go via the EEU on some matters while talking directly to the EU on other matters, using the EEU as a mechanism of convenience," he said.

On January 1, 2015 the treaty between the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus authorizing the EEU went into effect. Armenia joined a day later, while Kyrgyzstan is set to join in May. Membership talks with Tajikistan are ongoing.

Edited by S.I.

Follow the author on Twitter: @E_Kosolapova

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