_ EDB. Saint Petersburg, October 17, 2017.
EAEU elites, general population, and business community perceive Eurasian integration in a generally positive light, but their attitude towards that phenomenon is becoming increasingly restrained. When contemplating their countries’ involvement in the EAEU, politicians, businessmen, and individual citizens are often inclined to expect that integration will quickly produce a positive impact on the wellbeing of their countries, companies, and families. But economic integration is not a panacea for all of the EAEU member states’ structural problems. It is a set of tools, and those who are going to use those tools need to master specific competencies.
The EDB Centre for Integration Studies presents a monograph designed as a “one-window” solution for those wishing to get an initial insight into the EAEU.
Establishment of the EAEU is a major achievement of its members following a series of “integration false starts” in the 1990s and 2000s. Integration provides certain benefits to Union member states – individual income levels are converging, and relative trade turnover and investment flow metrics are improving. On the other hand, the Eurasian Economic Union is not an impeccable “success story.” The initial momentum which had been building up in 2010–2015, delivering impressive breakthroughs in a number of areas, has petered out. After a series of rapid advances, in 2015–2016 Eurasian integration ran into numerous problems and challenges. With external conditions going from bad to worse, it will be much more difficult to deal with those problems than it was before. The current stage of integration may be described as a period of “maturation” of the Eurasian integration association which requires more patience and painstaking efforts from all participants.
Long-term sustainability of integration processes may be assured by vibrant and successful “buttom-up” integration that includes mutually beneficial flows of capital, labor, services and goods, joint business and NGO projects.
At the same time, integration should not be reduced to economy. Long-term importance of interaction in the humanitarian sphere (including family ties, permanent and temporary migration, educational and cultural links, tourism, and many other things) is, as a minimum, comparable to the significance of economic ties. Integration strengthens international and interreligious peace – not only globally, but also within the states involved in the integration process. This international potential must be fully utilized and expanded, as humanitarian cooperation forges numerous factors conducive to the deepening of economic integration.
These are some of the conclusions advanced in the unique monograph Eurasian Economic Union prepared by the EDB Centre for Integration Studies. In 300 pages of text and 50 tables and figures, the authors not only present a plethora of facts on economics, politics, institutions, common markets, and external economic relations of the Union, but also attempt to explain why Eurasian integration processes are evolving in this particular way.
A detailed description of the EAEU economic and social ties makes up an important component of the analysis given in the monograph. The EAEU as an economic community has several structural characteristics which are largely shaped by its past – and at the same time determine its present and future. They include the predominant role of Russia in the Union economy (in terms of GDP, population, trade, and investment flows), the dependence of EAEU member states on exportation of raw materials, historically close interstate ties, and insignificant mutual trade volumes determined by the EAEU geography.
Post-Soviet states are interdependent in the areas of railway transport, operation of oil and gas pipelines, and power networks. Although this interdependence is gradually decreasing as national economies are being modernized, it is next to impossible – or prohibitively expensive – for the Union members to disengage from each other in terms of infrastructure. The book gives an in-depth account of the sectors where EAEU member states are converging, and the sectors where disintegration takes place.
It also provides an objective report on EAEU successes and troubles, an honest “insider view” of the evolution of integration processes, including negotiation of the EAEU Customs Code and the common market for drugs, creation of other common markets, and implementation of coordinated policies. The authors offer a thorough coverage of EAEU bodies, including a description of the operating procedures of the Eurasian Economic Commission, the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, and the EAEU Court, as well as a summary of the EAEU Treaty.
The Eurasian Economic Union is often treated as an ad hoc regional organization set up by Russia in pursuit of its own political agenda. This view is particularly widespread in the West with its evergreen “Kremlinology” traditions. The authors of Eurasian Economic Union substantiate their disagreement with that position. “The Eurasian Union is a “normal” regional integration organization,” emphasizes Evgeny Vinokurov, Director of the EDB Centre for Integration Studies. “Its structural characteristics are not unique. Economic domination of Russia within the EAEU? The weight of South Africa in the Southern African Customs Union is even greater, and the USA economically dominates NAFTA. Overwhelming share of raw materials in total exports? Oil means even more for the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, and MERCOSUR exports have a pronounced raw-materials bias too. First trade and economic conflicts within the Union? The history of MERCOSUR, ASEAN, NAFTA, and other regional organizations is replete with such conflicts. In a word, both EAEU achievements and its failures are “normal.”
Subject to the foregoing, it is critical that we engage in an objective conversation based on figures and facts. The new monograph serves that very purpose.
The authors have shown the tasks and problems that the Union may have to deal with over the next 10 years. In particular, the book provides a 360-degree view of foreign economic relations of the EAEU, including its expanding network of free trade agreements with third countries, its relations with China, its position on the One Belt One Road initiative (interface between the EAEU and the Silk Road Economic Belt), its present and future relations with the EU, and the possible enlargement options.
The global book market gets, for the first time in its history, an up-to-date popular scientific source of objective information about the EAEU, an introductory summary of the current body of knowledge in this field of study fully compliant with the most stringent scholarly research standards. The monograph is expected to be a “one-window” solution for those wishing to get an initial insight into the EAEU universe, an induction course which various experts may use as a primer on this Eurasian integration association. The book is written in plain language, and intended for a wide audience.