Eurasian economic union: Prospects, challenges, beyond
As there is no clear physical demarcation between two continents — Europe and Asia — in some parts of the world the term ‘Eurasia’ became famous which comprised parts of both Europe and Asia and being the largest of all the continents on earth, having an area of 55,000,000km, with population of 5,360,351,985 as of 16 October 2019 and number of countries in the area 93.
The landmass of the area is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Africa to the West, the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north and by Africa, the Mediterranean Sea and the India Ocean to the south.
About 75 per cent of the world’s population live in Eurasia and most of the global physical wealth is there which accounts around three-fourth of the known energy resources.
The Eurasian Economic Union, also referred to as EEU or EAEU is an economic union of states located in Eastern Europe, Western Asia, and Central Asia and founded originally in the background of dissolution of the (erstwhile) Soviet Union with its three members — Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia — that signed this agreement on 29 May 2014, effective from 1 January 2015.
The two other members of the union — Armenia and Kyrgyzstan — belonging to the Soviet Union also joined it on 2 January and 12 August 2015 respectively.
In a further development, these five members along with many other states of the region Eurasia-Ukraine, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Tajikistan, Vietnam, China, Iran and Serbia and several countries of the region are being mobilized to join the EAEU in the larger interest of the region to expand and promote economic activities among the nations of the Eurasia.
Although, the making of an economic union in the region Eurasia, on the model of European Union, emerged around the fall of a superpower, the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in early 1990s when in post-disintegration phase the economy of Russian Federation and the Central Asian Republics faced decline in Gross Domestic Products (GDP), a number of treaties were signed by the erstwhile states of the Soviet Union beginning with the Treaty on the Commonwealth of Independent States (1991), Treaty on Increased integration in the Economic and Humanitarian Fields (1996), Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Community (2000-2001), Treaties on the Eurasian Customs Union (1995, 2007, 2010), Treaties on the Eurasian Economic Space (2007,2011,2012), and lastly, Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union (2014-2015).
In fact, the continuous efforts of the old Soviet Union States to form a regional or sub-regional organisations represented a historical, geographical and nationalist fervor in the centre of which is the present Russia and it all started with the end of struggle between maritime civilization and the land-based nomadic armies in the early modern period in which the maritime powers of the West finally became able to establish supremacy over Euro-Asiatic land-based power and this defeated land-based powers began to unite against the West for protection of their inherited culture, custom tradition on the landmass not physically divided between Europe and Asia which we call today Eurasia.
Even this region did not recognize Russia as a part Europe or Asia and consider that Russia formed a united and cohesive geographical space into itself and this idea was taken up by a group of nationalist revolutionaries in the 1920s and 1930s.
This historical-cum-nationalistic version re-emerged in the 1990s after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
These series of alliances were undertaken to make the people recognize country’s historic greatness and geopolitical power.
After 2000, when Vladimir Putin came to power he also declared for the creation of a sort of neo-Soviet “Eurasian Economic Union” to be a major foreign policy priority of his administration and ultimately the dream came true with the formation of Eurasian Economic Union in 2014-2015 for the development of economic activities in the vast area, the term ‘Eurasia’ stands for.
With this background and ideational development the formation of Eurasian Economic Union appears realising into reality when in the year 2011 the then Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin announced his support for Nursultan Nazarbayev’s idea for the creation of a regional economic union on the pattern of European Union and on 18 November 2011the Presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed an agreement setting a target of establishing the Eurasian Economic Union by 2015 and the member states put together a Joint Commission on fostering closer economic ties.
In a further development the said three Presidents signed the treaty on Eurasian Economic Union, which came into effect on 1 January 2015 and the Presidents of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan were also present on the occasion.
After signing they all declared that they have created a powerful and attractive centre of economic development, a big regional market that unites more than 170 million people and at the same time they also emphasised that it is not a political union but a purely economic union.
In the same year the treaty got expanded with Armenia signing on 9 October followed by Kyrgyzstan on 23 December 2014.
In comparison to the earlier formations and treaties signed, the EAEU is a deeper stage of integration that promotes a free trade area along with establishing a common external tariff on imports and unifies product quality and other standards.
At the same time all patterns were established as per European Union for its successful working.
Apart from three founding members Armenia and Kyrgyzstan joined the Eurasian Economic Union in January and December 2015 respectively while Moldova was granted Observer Status in April 2017, and Uzbekistan and Cuba became observer members on 11 December 2020 and they are likely to become full member in coming years.
Even for membership a competition has been started between the European Union and Eurasian Economic Union.
As the sole leader and motivator of the organisation is Soviet Union, it is actively trying to increase the geopolitical role of the union and promoting its future growth by signing and obtaining commitments for free trade agreements with other countries.
However, not so good economic position of EAEU and Russia itself is a major hindrance in joining other nations to the forum and it is the greatest challenge before the Eurasian Economic Union.
— The writer is Professor and Head, Department of Political Science, B N Mandal University, Madhepura, Bihar, India.