Eurasian Integration: Effects on Central Asia

COVER1

Rapidly growing Eurasian integration has become one of the most interesting developments in the post-Soviet region due to its economic and geopolitical dimensions. A Russian-led Eurasian integration process, which has included Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan so far, aims to establish a mechanism of intergovernmental cooperation focusing predominantly on economic partnership. With the establishment of supranational institutions in collaboration with the post-Soviet republics, Russia aims to reestablish its influence, foster economic ties and strengthen trade relationships in the region. While some experts see Eurasian integration as an important historical development, others are completely skeptical about its effectiveness and even longevity.

While the progress of Eurasian integration is predominantly based on economic dimensions, it also inevitably features social, political, and security dimensions. This study aims to elaborate on the effects of Eurasian integration on the Central Asian countries.

For the land-locked economies of the Central Asian republics, regional economic cooperation and trade constitute an essential factor of sustainable growth. Therefore, any regional or international establishments like the Eurasian Economic Union that promote international trade and facilitate movement of goods, capital, labor and services between member states would be welcomed. If properly implemented, intra-union cooperation could strengthen local business and make them more competitive in global markets, attract foreign investments, strengthen the middle class, and eventually liberalize the economy. It could also facilitate adopting resolutions for a number of regional dilemmas such as border delimitation disputes, enclave problems in the Fergana Valley and transboundary water cooperation.

However, there is concern that the initial purpose of Eurasian integration could shift from interstate cooperation toward the creation of a more intrusive supranational structure. Especially after the annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian crisis and Western sanctions, Russia has adopted more aggressive and persistent behavior that could damage trust among the members of the Eurasian Economic Union. In fact, Astana feels the necessity of making periodic announcement that Kazakhstan does not seek and will not accept any political integration or supranational structure. If mechanisms for equality and regulation become instruments of political and economic pressure, the Economic Union will lose its attractiveness as a union that could otherwise be mutually beneficial for all member countries.

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