_ EDB. St. Petersburg, 25 December 2017.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU, Union) continues to enjoy significant trust and support from between 50% and 83% of the population of its five member states, as well as Tajikistan (69%). At the same time, positive attitudes towards Eurasian integration have been declining gradually, both in the EAEU countries and beyond.
Over the EAEU’s first years, from 2015 to 2017, the most significant decline in public support for membership of the Union was recorded in Russia (from 78% to 68% of the population) and Armenia (from 56% to 46% in 2015-2016, with an increase to 50% in 2017). In other EAEU countries, public support for Eurasian integration reduced at a moderate pace: from 80% to 76% in Kazakhstan, and from 60% to 56% in Belarus. It should be mentioned that the highest support for Eurasian integration in these countries was recorded in 2014, with indicators averaging 10 percentage points higher than in 2017.
In the Kyrgyz Republic, the population has been demonstrating the most positive attitudes to the EAEU membership since 2015. The actual figures changed insignificantly, from 86% to 83% in 2016 and 2017 respectively. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in 2014 only 50% of the Kyrgyz population supported the country’s possible accession to the EAEU and 30% were against this possibility. The main reason for this was the country’s economic difficulties.
These are the results of population surveys in seven countries (five EAEU member states, Tajikistan and Moldova) where at least 1,000 people were polled (totalling approximately 8,000). The EDB Integration Barometer polls have been conducted yearly since 2012 as a joint project by the EDB Centre for Integration Studies and Eurasian Monitor, an international partnership.
The decline in approval for Eurasian integration among the EAEU citizens was caused by both the increase in the share of those who are indifferent to the EAEU and those who were not sure how to answer. People don’t turn their back to integration but lose interest in it. The highest level of indifference to the EAEU in 2015-2017 was recorded in Russia (up from 15% to 25%).
In Armenia and Belarus, the highest share in the polls is that of sceptics (40% each) who believe that relations between the CIS countries will not change in the nearest five years. The share of those who expect improvements in relations in the CIS region is lower (35% in Belarus and 25% in Armenia) while the share of those who expect that the region’s countries would rather distance from each other is also high (9% and 15%, respectively). Overall, inertial attitudes, or the share of those who believe that nothing will change in relations in the CIS countries, is gradually growing. There are exceptions here, however: in Armenia, the share of people who are optimistic about future relations with neighbouring CIS countries increased from 14% to 25% in 2017, jumping back to the level of 2015.
The high level of support for the five countries’ joining the EAEU that was recorded in 2015 was somewhat of an advance of public trust associated with positive, partly inflated expectations of quick positive integration effects. “To boost people’s interest and trust in the EAEU, we need persistent and proactive awareness-raising among the population to clarify real achievements and opportunities of Eurasian integration,” Vladimir Pereboyev, Head of Projects at the EDB Centre for Integration Studies, explains. “With the passive approach to the Union’s information space, public scepticism about integration will grow. At the same time, information about integration should be objective as there should be no gaps between the actual situation in the Union and media’s agenda.”
The survey showed that people in Belarus and Moldova were the most open to foreign capital inflows in 2017. In Belarus, this demand has been growing stably over the years of measurements. Similarly to 2016 results, the most desired investors are Russia, Germany, the U.S., China, and Japan. Residents of all the EAEU countries, Tajikistan and Moldova express interest in Russia as the desired source of foreign capital at a level of not lower than 34%.
As for preferred partners in the area of research and technical cooperation, priority in the surveyed countries is given to Russia, which was mentioned by an average of 46% of respondents (more than during the previous survey), Germany and Japan. Russians, at the same time, are least interested in Russia’s research and technical cooperation with the CIS countries. Overall, in 2017 the surveyed countries continued to maintain their lasting preference for cooperation with “other” countries (beyond the CIS and the EAEU), at a level of 51%.