Review of the “Connecting Eurasia Dialogue” discussion paper (IIASA, 2019).
At first glance, globalization, which contributed to economic and trade liberalization, the construction of new infrastructure networks to bring the world closer, has long answered the question of creating a common space in Eurasia. However, economics, as before, is closely interconnected with politics, and sometimes the political interests of various influence groups at the national, supranational, and global levels run counter to the tasks of a growing number of diverse national and transnational economic players. In this interweaving, various formats and models of interaction between states are manifested. And in this interweaving, seemingly insignificant factors can seriously affect the entire configuration of forces in Eurasia as a whole.
Eurasia remains the main key field of interaction, the space in which history is created. It is on the territory of Eurasia that large integration projects are built – the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). It is in Eurasia that China’s “Belt and Road” initiative is being implemented. Based on this, in many respects, not only macro-regional and global stability, including in the economic sphere, but also security depends on the interaction of key players in Eurasia. Therefore, a growing interest in the possibilities of cooperation between the EU and the EAEU is obvious.
An interesting look at this problem was presented by Jurij C. Kofner inhis discussion paper “Connecting Eurasia Dialogue” (IIASA, 2019), prepared following the results of the eponymous event held by the “Conoscere Eurasia” business association in Brussels in March 2019.
The author pointed out the interest on the part of the EU in expanding its presence in Eurasia, primarily in the Asian region as a whole. However, the possibilities of such a presence are largely impaired to the current lack of cooperation of the EU with Russia and the EAEU.
Firstly, Kofner highlights the problems that clearly demonstrate the lack of a necessary dialogue. Contacts of the parties are minimized. In addition, we note a relative decline in trade shares between the EU and the EAEU, and this is important against the background of stable growth in trade and mutual investments, for example, between the EAEU countries and China.
Secondly, the author points to the consistent achievements of the EAEU to date. Thus, it was possible to formulate general technical regulations and standards for 70% of goods, a common labor market, including healthcare and pensions, a single market for 55% of all services, etc. In addition, the following tasks were set: to form a common electricity market by 2019, a common oil and gas market by 2025, a common financial market by 2025, etc. One cannot fail to note the successes in the EAEU international agenda, including the free trade agreement with Vietnam (2015), the interim FTA with Iran (2018), the MoU with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) (2018. ), the MoU with the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) (2018), free negotiations with India, Israel, Serbia, Singapore and others.
However, the EU may also show its achievements in the post-Soviet space. So, Armenia and Belarus (EAEU member countries) are EU partners in the framework of the Eastern Partnership program. Kazakhstan signed a comprehensive and expanded partnership agreement (2015). One cannot but notice, however, that the pace of development of partnerships is different, and the EU still does not penetrate the post-Soviet space as fast as it wanted.
Kofner raises an urgent question, what is the advantage for the EU and the EAEU in the development of mutual cooperation, and answers to it. Thus, the EAEU remains the third largest trading partner of the EU after the United States and China. In addition, the EU cannot refuse cheap energy resources from the EAEU countries, mainly from Russia.
Clear principles of interaction between the EU and the EAEU are necessary for the development of EU cooperation with other post-Soviet states. Sustainable cooperation, of course, requires agreements in specific areas in which the parties are ready for such agreements. First of all, in the field of trade relations, which can repeatedly improve the position of all players.
However, one majorobstacle prevents reaching such agreements. The EU continues to consider itself the main regulator in all areas. EU representatives need to stop striving to identify themselves as the head of all processes in Eurasia, recognize the diversity of interests, show willingness to compromise and learn to negotiate, especially in the context of a slipping of the current model of European integration.
The IIASA discussion report allows us to structure our understanding of the possibilities of interaction between the EU and the EAEU and formulate new tasks in the dialogue between the parties.