In 2018 the Eurasian integration agenda will be rich

_ Sergei Shukhno, Director, Department for the Development of Integration, Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC). Moscow, 14 February 2018. Interviewed by Elina Chymukhina.

The Eurasian Communication Center, INA “Russia Today”, continues its series of interviews with lecturers of the open lectures course on Eurasian economic integration, which is held at the Faculty of World Politics and World Economy at the Higher School of Economics.  The project is organized by the Eurasian sector, Centre for Complex European and International Studies, Higher School of Economics in cooperation with the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC).

On 14 February 2018, a lecture was held on the topic “Priorities of the Russian Federation Chairmanship in the EAEU: digitalization, education, new areas of integration”. Afterwards, the lector Sergei Shukhno, Director, Department for the Development of Integration, Eurasian Economic Commission, gave an interview on the EAEU digitalization agenda, as well as the role of the Union in the changing global economic architecture.

  – Mr. Shukhno, what is on the Eurasian Economic Union’s agenda in 2018?  What, in your opinion, are the strategic tasks that need to be addressed?  Many people say that this will be the year of the digital economy.  Is that so?

 – First of all, I would like to note that the agenda of the Union’s development was outlined by the presidents of the member states as early as in 2014 when they signed the Astanta Treaty.  Then already the integration agenda was set for 10 years ahead – until 2025, and we are systematically working on its implementation.  Undoubtedly, in the course of our work we react both to internal needs and to external factors – global challenges that encourage us to improve.

So, for example, recently a new sphere was added to our integration process – the digital agenda.  Now we are developing this sphere together.  Digital economy issues are very popular today. This is the trend of the future and we, of course, want to “keep pace with the times”. The main implementation directions of the Union’s digital agenda until 2025 have been approved by the heads of the EAEU member states at the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on 11 October 2017. A consensus has already been reached for several spheres, i.e. on digital traceability of goods, services and digital assets, on digital industrial cooperation, on e-commerce and on public procurement, on digital transport corridors and logistics infrastructure, on cross-border data exchange. To implement these initiatives in practice, the Commission created a special project office, which included representatives of all member states of the Union.

The work of the Commission is carried out in all directions, and in 2018, the elimination of exemptions and restrictions on the internal market of the Union will be carried out in accordance with the road map for 2018 – 2019.  We sytematicly carry out the identification and elimination of barriers within the Union.

In the industrial sphere, the Commission will continue to implement the “Basic Directions of Industrial Cooperation” in two key tracks – in the traditional and in the innovative sectors. It is important to deepen our cooperation in priority sectors and to have a practical implementation of the decisions of the EAEU in the innovation sphere, which includes: the creation of  “Eurasian technological platforms”, of a Eurasian network of industrial cooperation and subcontracting, as well as implementation of cooperation projects with the Eurasian Develeopment Bank (EDB).

In the agrarian and industrial complex this year it will be necessary to build effective mechanisms of interaction on basic agricultural goods in order to reduce dependence on imported supplies and to expand our exports to foreign markets.

In the area of ​​technical regulation, our work will continue on the preparation of 15 more Union-wide technical regulations, which will establish requirements for energy efficiency, pipelines, poultry meat, etc.

The formation of a single services market within the Union, which is already functioning in 43 sectors, will be supplemented by another 20 sectors following the implementation of liberalization plans.

As for the financial sphere, the Commission is currently working on a “Concept for the formation of a common financial market” for the member states of the Union.

Work is underway on the draft “Agreement on the common electricity market” of the Union and, I hope, we will be able to sign it this year.

Also this year, the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council will approve a program and an action plan for the formation of common markets for oil and petroleum products, which will result in the transition to market pricing, fair competition and non-discriminatory access to markets.

In the sphere of competition and antitrust regulation, the EEC plans to actively work to improve the legal body of the Union. This includes the introduction of a “soft response” tool (the issuance of warnings by the Commission on the need to stop the violation of the general rules of competition), the introduction of a risk-oriented approach (a system for assessing the characteristics of commodity markets using risk markers that characterize the possibility of violations of the general rules of competition in the relevant cross-border market)  etc.  In the field of public procurement, our work will continue to ensure the mutual recognition of electronic digital signatures for public procurement purposes.

The entry into force on 1 January 2018 of the Customs Code of the Union should be noted especially. It introduces the priority of electronic declaration, as well as the possibility of automatic customs clearance of exported and imported goods.  The terms of passage of all procedures will be shortened and the volume of the paper turnover will decrease. In the long term, we expect that entrepreneurs will conduct foreign economic activities using the principle of a “single window” and work with all government bodies through a private office in a common integrated information system.  As you can see, this year promises to be quite busy for the Eurasian Economic Union.

– In the appeal to the Supreme Eurasian Council the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin proposed to look at the possibilities of integration also in the social and humanitarian spheres.  How is scientific and technological cooperation developing, integration in the field of education within the Union?

 – As part of our analytical work, we note the great importance and the need to include social and humanitarian spheres into the integration process. Moreover, more and more this is supported by the scientific and expert community of the member states of the Union. For example, in April 2016, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between  the leading universities of the member states of the Union for the establishment of the “Eurasian Network University”. However, for real implementation there is not enough support for such initiatives on the part of the state authorities of the member states of the Union.

Now the Treaty on the Union has established the simplification of the procedures necessary for the employment of citizens of the member states of the Union, the legal stay and the recognition of diplomas. For 2018, the signing of the Treaty on the provision of pensions for workers of the member states of the Union is planned.  But even now we see that the integration measures stipulated by the Treaty on the Union are not enough, and it is necessary to deepen our integration for ensuring the formation of a single labor market.

This year we are preparing a report on the implementation of the main directions of integration within the Union, in which we designate the need to involve certain areas, including social and humanitarian ones, in the “orbit” of integration.  These areas include education, ecology;  economic security;  scientific and technological cooperation and innovation;  sport; tourism. 

Obviously, in order to obtain the most positive integration effect, it is necessary to take into account the social factor and to ensure a sufficient level of its quality and development.  The fact that this year this issue has entered the priorities of the Russian EAEU chairmanship is for us additional support and an important “signal” to work in this direction.

– What does the international agenda of the EAEU look like?  How does the Eurasian Economic Union see its role in the changing global economic architecture?

 – To date, the EAEU has a very broad international agenda. Year by year, the ties between the Union and the EEC as its regulatory body with third countries, regional integration associations and international organizations are developing ever more actively. More than 50 countries from different regions of the world are interested in cooperation with the EAEU.  As a rule, we cooperate with foreign partners in the framework of memorandums on cooperation or trade negotiations. 

Since 2015, memoranda of cooperation have been signed between EEC and the governments of Chile, Peru – in Latin America;  Singapore, Cambodia, Mongolia – in Asia;  Jordan and Morocco – in the Middle East and Africa. In 2016, a free trade area with Vietnam was established, negotiations were held with Iran, an intensive dialogue with India, Israel, Serbia, Singapore and Egypt is continuing.  Negotiations on an Agreement on trade and economic cooperation between the EAEU and China have been completed.

In these regions we interact not only with the governments of states, but also with regional integration associations.  So, in March 2017, the Memorandum was signed with the Andean Community – the oldest association in Latin America. Issues of cooperation between EAEU and ASEAN, MERCOSUR, the African Union, as well as a number of other associations have been discussed.

An important track is also the international positioning of the Union. Thus, representatives of the EAEU take part in conferences and seminars, speak to the official, business and expert circles of foreign partners. Eurasian integration issues are increasingly being discussed at key international venues.  Over the past few years, the Commission has been actively involved in OSCE activities. In particular, in 2016, EEC was represented at a meeting of the OSCE Foreign Affairs Ministerial Council in Hamburg, and in December 2017, Minister Tatyana Valovaya took part as an honorary guest in the OSCE Foreign Affairs Ministerial Council in in Vienna.  Other venues are actively involved, for example, the Eurasian Forum in Verona, activities by influential foreign NGOs, scientific centers, in particular the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Laxenburg, Austria. 

Integration issues in the global context are regularly discussed during the key economic forums on the territory of the Eurasian Union. They include the the Astana Economic Forum, the Petersburg International Economic Forum, the Minsk Conference and the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

The EAEU participates in various UN activities: UNCTAD, ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), the United Nations Development Program. Thus, in July 2017, within the framework of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council, the Commission presented a report on “Indicators for the achievement of sustainable development goals in the region of the Eurasian Economic Union”. It provides a detailed analysis of the correspondence of the development priorities and activities of the Union with the objectives of sustainable development within the LRC.  This initiative allowed the Eurasian Economic Union to become the first regional integration association in the world to prepare a report on the implementation of the sustainable development goals. 

The level and breadth of international contacts that have developed to date allows us to say that the EAEU is well integrated into the new changing global economic architecture, and its role in the international arena is growing. At the same time, taking into account the discussion on the possibilities for the creation of the Greater Eurasian Partnership, the Union is regarded by many experts as one of the centers of such a mega-regional project.


Translation: Maria Zvereva

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