Eurasia summit flops in Moscow
A summit designed to put in place an economic union similar to the EU failed to reach its goals yesterday (19 March), following the objection by Belarus to putting in place a community mechanism, capable of imposing its decisions to member states.
The establishment of a 'Eurasian Union', largely modeled on the EU, was postponed to 2015, after the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko insisted that member countries should have the right to veto the decision of the future body.
The summit was hosted in Moscow by the outgoing President Dmitry Medvedev. Putin, who won the presidential elections on 4 April amid accusations of widespread fraud, will be inaugurated in May.
The Eurasian Union was due to replace EurAsEc, the Eurasian Economic Community, a customs union between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, established on 29 March 1996. According to the Kremlin website, the summit was attended by Lukashenko, the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev, the President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon.
Also present were and the heads of state of EurAsEC 'observer' countries – the President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, the President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, and the Acting President of Moldova Marian Lupu. Also taking part in the summit are EurAsEC Secretary-General Tair Mansurov and President of the Eurasian Economic Commission’s Board Viktor Khristenko, who is the current Russian Industry Minister and whom Moscow wants to see appointed as EurAsian Union President.
According to the Russian language service of the BBC, the summit failed in both its objectives – putting an end to EurAsEc and establishing a Eurasian Union. As a compromise, the leaders decided to postpone the establishing of the Eurasian Union. "We proceed from the assumption that a comprehensive treaty on the creation of a new Eurasian Union will be drafted and signed by 1 January, 2015," Medvedev said.
He also announced that the next EurAsEc summit would be held in May 2012.
The next EurAsEc summit will be held in May 2012, he said.
The Russian President also hinted that it was in the interest of Ukraine, Armenia and Moldova, who are not members of the EurAsEc Customs Union, to join.
"We have said that we are forming the Customs Union and spoke about the advantages [of membership], and of certain disadvantages that may emerge and are already emerging for states that are not members of the Customs Union," Medvedev was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Ukraine keeps its distances
Kiev has so far declined to join the Customs Union, but said that it is willing to cooperate on a '3+1' basis - an option that has been rejected by Moscow.
The President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich, who participated in the capacity of observer, said there were "no grounds" for his country to move toward integration with Russia. According to many Russian experts, the idea of a Eurasian Union could not fly without Ukraine, the second biggest republic of the former USSR in terms of population.
"In order to move towards integration, we should have certain grounds. And there are currently no grounds, we do not see them. There were a lot of discussions and they led to one thing: it is not clear what we will get," Yanukovych was quoted saying by the Ukrainian radio.
Yanukovich added that his country had left the EurAsEc integration process and therefore, due to the lack of the necessary information, it was not in the position to give a proper assessment of prospects for this integration association.
Last October, in an article published by the daily Izvestia, Vladimir Putin, already expected to become his country's President, spoke of an "Eurasina Union, outlining his geopolitical ambitions for the years to come.
Putin sees as a "historic milestone" the kick off on 1 January, 2012 of the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (CES). But Putin stresses that this union remains open for other members. In his article, he cited Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Putin appears to reject suspicions that he will be willing to resuscitate a smaller version of the former USSR. But he also paid tribute to the former Soviet Union and its "common linguistic, scientific and cultural space".
Clearly referring to Ukraine and Moldova, Putin stressed that membership of his new project would not harm ambitions to develop deeper integration with the EU.
An expert roundtable held in November appeared to put some flesh on Putin's blueprint. Apart from countries of the former USSR, the "Eurasian Union" should bring together nations that are historically or culturally close to Russia and that are "loyal to Russia's interests", the experts said.
Viktor Tkachuk, director general of the Ukrainian Foundation for Democracy “People First” commented:
"It completely makes sense that Russia insists on Ukraine joining the Customs Union in the framework of creation of the Eurasian Union. It logically falls in the foreign policy concept of Russia's development voiced earlier by Vladimir Putin. Moscow isn't interested in the creation of a free trade area between Ukraine and the EU. Ukraine with its resources, infrastructure and human potential joining the Customs Union is a primary task of Russia.
After Vladimir Putin acquires his next presidential status, Ukraine's foreign policy two-vector game will end up de jure. De facto it will possibly end up right after the parliamentary elections in Ukraine on October 28, 2012. By this time an intensive economic expansion from the side of Russia is expected. Most likely there will be no new trade wars. However, Russian diplomacy will influence the EU-Ukraine relations as much as possible. Players are known, time is determined, it is EU's turn to react."