Azerbaijan in the EAEU: Is It Possible?

_ Gosan Godjaev. Baku, 19 February 2018.

Since January 1, 2018, Russia has assumed the chairmanship in the Eurasian Economic Union. In this regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited the CIS countries to become EAEU observers. Some experts suppose that Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan may become such.

The ЕАEU is not just about economic integration. It also ensures the security of its borders and supports the overcoming of new threats. This integration project is a solution to the food security problem, market issues and FDI procurement. The common past brought together the peoples of the CIS countries.

I suppose there is a possibility that Azerbaijan will not accept the EAEU observer status. Azerbaijan has close ties in the economic, political, social, and cultural fields with practically all EAEU states. But every rule has its exception you know. And Azerbaijan’s exception is Armenia.

About two years ago on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York the Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan did not deny the possibility of its accession to the Eurasian Economic Union membership. It was a time when the idea of ​​Azerbaijan’s EAEU accession was mostly relevant.

However, some political factors seriously complicate this issue. These are the mutualy hostile nature of the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and the negative attitude of Armenian authorities and public to any format of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EAEU. Therefore, many experts consider such rapprochement extremely unlikely at this current stage.

However, the economic factor makes this rapprochement possible. It is the policy of Azerbaijan to diversify its national economy due to the price volatility in the energy market that makes up the bulk of the state’s revenues. This is why a successful multi-vector development of Azerbaijan faced a number of barriers in the fields of foreign policy and foreign economy. It is possible to overcome these barriers through closer cooperation with geo-economic blocks and regional economic integration.

Besides, another important factor is the increased criticism from Western countries and international pro-Western NGOs towards Azerbaijan. Under these conditions, it is quite natural for Baku to strengthen relations with Moscow, which can also make Azerbaijan’s accession to the EAEU more likely. Moreover, Turkey has recently expressed its desire to cooperate with the Eurasian Economic Union. Turkey is the main guideline for the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. Therefore, if Ankara gets closer to the Union, similar steps in this direction can be expected from Baku.

It is also important that such cooperation would greatly facilitate the Eurasian integration to the East. The EAEU initiated negotiations on free trade zones (FTZ, FTZ+) with countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and India. And Azerbaijan can play a key role in this issue, as it is a strategically important transport hub in the region. At the last Putin-Aliyev-Rouhani meeting in Tehran, the parties once again stressed the importance of such a format of negotiations.

The issue of Eurasian integration of Azerbaijan is a complex one. A serious barrier is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has a negative impact on the further development of relations between Azerbaijan and the Eurasian Economic Union. The Azerbaijan-EAEU rapprochement is possible however through the CIS FTA or on the basis of bilateral and multilateral ties between Baku and the EAEU members.


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