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Eurasian Customs Union

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  • Eurasian Customs Union

    Facing Russian Threat, Ukraine Halts Plans for Deals with E.U.

    Published: November 21, 2013

    MOSCOW — Under threat of crippling trade sanctions by Russia, Ukraine announced Thursday that it had suspended its plans to sign far-reaching political and trade agreements with the European Union and said it would instead pursue new partnerships with a competing trade bloc of former Soviet states.

    The decision largely scuttles what had been the European Union’s most important foreign policy initiative: an ambitious effort to draw in former Soviet republics and lock them on a trajectory of changes based on Western political and economic sensibilities. The project, called the Eastern Partnership program, began more than four years ago.

    Ukraine’s decision not to sign the agreements at a major conference next week in Vilnius, Lithuania, is a victory for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. He had maneuvered forcefully to derail the plans, which he regarded as a serious threat, an economic version of the West’s effort to build military power by expanding NATO eastward. In September, similar pressure by Russia forced Armenia to abandon its talks with the Europeans.

    European leaders reacted with fury and regret, directed at Kiev and Moscow. “This is a disappointment not just for the E.U. but, we believe, for the people of Ukraine,” Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said in a statement. Calling the pact that Ukraine was walking away from “the most ambitious agreement the E.U. has ever offered to a partner country,” Ms. Ashton suggested the country would suffer financially.

    “It would have provided a unique opportunity to reverse the recent discouraging trend of decreasing foreign investment,” she said, “and would have given momentum” to negotiations for more financial aid from the International Monetary Fund. Ukraine faces a growing economic crisis, and it is widely expected to need a major aid package soon.

    Others were more pointed in blaming Russia. “Ukraine government suddenly bows deeply to the Kremlin,” the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, wrote on Twitter. “Politics of brutal pressure evidently works.”

    In Brussels, Stefan Fule, the European Commission’s senior official responsible for relations with neighboring countries, canceled a trip to Ukraine that he had announced just hours earlier, suggesting that officials saw little hope in reversing the decision. “Hard to overlook in reasoning for today’s decision impact of #Russia’s recent unjustified economic & trade measures,” he wrote on Twitter.

    Ukraine’s announcement came in the form of a decree issued by the cabinet of ministers ordering the government “to suspend” preparations for concluding the agreements with Europe and instead begin planning for new negotiations with the European Union and Russia.

    At virtually the same time, President Viktor F. Yanukovich, who was on a visit to Vienna, issued a statement saying, “Ukraine has been and will continue to pursue the path to European integration.”

    In a move emblematic of Ukraine’s often inscrutable politics, Mr. Yanukovich barely acknowledged the developments in Kiev and, responding to a reporter’s question about the pacts with Europe, said, “Of course, there are difficulties on the path.”

    Because Mr. Yanukovich was supposed to sign the accords in Vilnius, some officials seemed to hold out the faint possibility he might find a way to resurrect the agreements. Those hopes seemed to fade Thursday night as the reactions in Europe grew angrier, and Russia said it would gladly join in negotiations if the accords were postponed.

    The decree by the cabinet of ministers followed the Ukrainian Parliament’s overwhelming rejection of legislation that would have freed the country’s jailed former prime minister, Yulia V. Tymoshenko, and allowed her to seek treatment in Germany for back problems. Ms. Tymoshenko is a bitter political rival of Mr. Yanukovich’s.

    The West has long criticized the conviction of Ms. Tymoshenko on abuse of authority charges and her seven-year prison sentence, saying they were a politically motivated effort to sideline her. Her release was widely viewed as a condition of signing the agreements, although the European Union never officially declared it to be a requirement.

    The Parliament, which is controlled by Mr. Yanukovich’s Party of Regions, defeated six different bills related to the treatment of prisoners that were intended to address Ms. Tymoshenko’s case.

    Opposition leaders in Parliament, including members of Ms. Tymoshenko’s Fatherland party and leaders of the nationalist Svoboda party, accused Mr. Yanukovich of torpedoing Ukraine’s chances for integration with Western Europe.

    “President Yanukovich is personally stopping Ukraine’s movement to Europe,” said Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, a former minister of economy and foreign minister, who is the leader of the Fatherland party in Parliament.

    Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, is expected to move forward with the agreements in Vilnius even though Russia has banned imports of Moldovan wine, one of the country’s most important exports, and has threatened other repercussions including an immigration crackdown on more than 100,000 Moldovans working in Russia.

    Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008 and remains in conflict with Russia over the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, is also planning to move forward with the accords. At his inauguration on Sunday, the country’s new president, Giorgi Margvelashvili, said Georgia hoped to join the European Union and NATO.

    Ukraine’s domestic politics are deeply entwined with the country’s relationship with Russia, and Mr. Yanukovich is widely viewed as calculating the implications of his decisions for his plans to seek re-election in 2015.

    Mr. Yanukovich’s political base is in the largely Russian-speaking southern and eastern sections of the country, which generally favor closer relations with Russia. Younger voters, and those in the central and western sections of the country, are more likely to favor integration with Europe; he would need their support to win a second term.

    At the same time, Ukraine is facing severe economic problems and will probably need a large infusion of credit. Those problems were certain to worsen if Russia followed through with threats of wide-ranging trade sanctions as retaliation for signing the deals with Europe.

    It was unclear if the Kremlin had given Mr. Yanukovich any assurances of financial assistance. It seemed probable that Ukraine would face difficulties obtaining additional help from the International Monetary Fund after backing out of the agreements with Europe.

    On Thursday, several hundred protesters gathered in Independence Square in Kiev. Carrying European flags, they chanted, “Ukraine is Europe!”

    Linas Linkevicius, the foreign minister of Lithuania, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, said that if Ukraine passed up the chance of signing a deal at the conference next week in Vilnius, it would have very little chance of doing so in the future. “The probability is likely close to zero,” he said.
    <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>

  • #2
    Re: Eurasian Customs Union

    surprising 180 by Ukraine. If Ukraine was to join the Eurasian Union, it would give it some much needed credibility with a second country that can carry some weight besides Russia. Though still remains the elusive issue of Armenia having no land access to any country in the Union.
    <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>


    • #3
      Re: Eurasian Customs Union

      Ukraine is a huge addition to the eurasian union. I think this event will have a big influence on the decisions of smaller countries. I believe we will be seeing some big news coming out of the caucuses soon as well perhaps even a short war.
      Hayastan or Bust.


      • #4
        Re: Eurasian Customs Union

        The Kremlin's Collapsing Eurasian Sandcastle

        Anton Barbashin, Hannah Thoburn
        September 11, 2013

        Vladimir Putin’s dream of creating a Eurasian Union is about to breathe its last breath.

        Over the past several weeks, Russia has made headlines with its bullying of Ukraine for the latter’s intention to sign an association agreement with the European Union in November. Frantic to keep for themselves what would be the crown xxxel of the potential Eurasian Union, Russia has in the past month ordered intense checks of all Ukrainian goods entering Russia, banned imports of Ukrainian chocolate and warned Ukraine that it would lose its status as a “strategic partner” and face “defensive measures” should it sign the Agreement.

        Russia knows very well that should Ukraine sign the EU Association Agreement, it will no longer have the tools to incorporate Ukraine into the Customs Union, thus making further political integration into the Eurasian Union impossible.

        The Eurasian Union has been at the forefront of Putin’s attempts to create an umbrella group for former Soviet nations that would strive for their security, economic prosperity and cultural closeness.

        The idea of seeing Russia as the core of a new geopolitical center that would act as a bridge between West and East has long been an attractive idea to many Russians and is a project that Russian rulers have promoted for centuries. The idea of Great Russia has been twice realized in history, first as the Russian Empire (1721-1917) and then as the Soviet Union (1922-1991). Putin has himself hoped for Russia to reacquire that position, and has dreamt of resurrecting a geopolitical giant that would balance America, the EU and China in the twenty-first century.

        Putin’s plan was to consolidate “willing” countries around the already existing Customs Union trade block of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan and, following the example of EU integration, slowly transform into a political unit. But Moscow’s project was immature and flawed from the very beginning.

        First, the Eurasian Union lacks the kind of strong ideology that was the cornerstone of the Soviet project. Bolshevism and the promise of the great Communist tomorrow galvanized both the elites and ordinary peoples of the former Russian Empire to endure the harsh road ahead, suffering losses and total lack of political and personal independence. But such an ideology does not exist to unite the Eurasian Union. The concept of “Eurasianism,” is based on the contraposition of Russia to the West in the sense of culture, power and existential meaning but does not provide for a unified solution to the problems that the post-Soviet states face. Rather, Putin wanted to use Eurasianist ideology solely for a pure and direct Empire-like projection of Russia and Russianness onto Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

        But as it is a Russian vision, the Eurasian Union would bear the flaws of modern Russia: neglect of human rights, selective justice and omnivorous corruption. As compared to the European Union, the example on which Putin wanted to base his Union, Russia also lacks the tradition of following established rules. This understandably engenders fears and doubts among the potential members for the integrity of their sovereignty and, in the case of Ukraine, pushes them towards the more secure embrace of already established alternatives. Ukraine now sees its economic future with Europe, while at the other end of the old Soviet space, Kyrgyzstan would be ill advised to join the Eurasian Union, as it would lose much of the benefits it receives from Chinese trade.

        A further weakness in the Eurasian plan is the massive difference between the economic potentials of Russia and the Central Asian states. Out of the five Central Asian states, Kazakhstan, the most economically advanced, is already a part of Customs Union, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have shown no interest in integrating with Russia, thus leaving two poor, but “willing” nations, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The establishment of a Eurasian Union with those states that would make Russia accountable for balancing the inequalities of economic development through massive monetary transfers, as the European Union has done recently with southern European states like Greece and, in the past, most of the eastern European states. Such transfers would likely aggravate the economic situation in Russia, slowing down economic development and creating massive social liabilities; additional expenses would not be approved by the vast majority of even the most conservative, Soviet-nostalgic population.

        Yet another obstacle is Russia’s resurgent nationalism. The old Soviet idea of “the friendship of nations” has long since faded and, over the last decade, Russian support of nationalist attitudes toward work migrants from Central Asian states has grown substantially. This has produced tensions in the big cities, regular assaults on immigrants by nationalist radicals and, more commonly, an overt intolerance of migrants. It also makes the question of integration with those Central Asian nations a sticky one.

        The Eurasian project has proposed to significantly liberalize border control and to eliminate immigrant work quotas between Russia and at least three Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. In Kazakhstan’s case, their standards of living and education are very close to Russia’s, decreasing the chance of the eruption of severe nationalist problems between the two peoples. Only 13 percent of Kazakhstanis are thinking of emigrating, and most that have emigrated are ethnic Russians.

        But the situation with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan is quite different. With their GDP per capitas at $1,070 and $837, respectively, (compare to $14,037 in Russia), their stagnating economies, lack of job opportunities and high birth rates, Kyrgyz and Tajiks are compelled to look for jobs abroad. Russia is their first choice of destination, and Russia has seen constant growth in the number of work permit applications submitted. Inclusion of these states in the Eurasian Union would likely boost the numbers of those immigrants who plan to stay in Russia permanently, furthering tensions that already sit at dangerous levels. Ukraine would likely have seen a similar jump in immigration had they chosen to join the Eurasian Union. For them then, the choice to associate with the European Union means both increased opportunities for Ukrainian citizens to travel and do business in Europe, but also a barrier against unwanted immigration from the East.

        The purpose of any Union is to resolve controversies, not to create them, but the idea of the Eurasian Union has produced far more problems than it proposed to solve. It is understandable that some issues can only be solved once the Union is operational, because any integration project is a process, not a goal. The European Union has struggled with various dilemmas and problems for nearly 50 years and in every step of its integration. But its successes can be attributed to one key feature that Eurasian Union lacks—the desire and willingness of each member to share responsibility and to delegate power.

        The apparent loss of Ukraine and social dangers of integration with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan leave Russia only with the current members of its Customs Union—Belarus and Kazakhstan. But neither President Lukashenko, nor President Nazarbayev, who have ruled their countries for nineteen and twenty-three years respectively, are inclined to sacrifice their patiently gathered powers on the altar of an unknown leviathan. Reason dictates that Russia must drop the notion of creating the Eurasian Union and deal with the new reality of Ukraine’s inexorable westward movement, and the fact that involvement with Central Asia is too dangerous for Russia’s internal stability.

        The Eurasian Union is an unattainable dream for Mr. Putin. The sooner Russia’s leader acknowledges his failure the better it will be for the stable development of the region—and of Russia itself.

        __________________________________________________ ____________________________________________

        Though the author seems to have wrote off the union far too easily, he makes some interesting points. First of all, the basic fact that unlike the European Union, this is not a coming of together of several notable powers with a single goal in mind, is very true. Even if we were to say there is a central goal here, a major issue that exists is the fact that there are so few countries in the region that one would want to form a union with. A lot of these regimes exists purely through totalitarian force and revenue from natural resources.

        Also the basic fact that the entire region lacks so much institutional control, that there are so many countries with massive corruption issues is a true concern. It's hard to have a unifying vision for development when there are so many competing forces in each country, often working outsides the lines of any set of laws.
        Last edited by Mher; 11-23-2013, 10:28 PM.
        <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>


        • #5
          Re: Eurasian Customs Union

          There are goals in mind for the Eurasian Union they are called survival and prosperity. Even a purely economic union can do wonders for Armenia's economy. It will be interesting to watch this union develop and to see what kind of role Armenia will play in it.
          Hayastan or Bust.


          • #6
            Re: Eurasian Customs Union

            Originally posted by Haykakan View Post
            There are goals in mind for the Eurasian Union they are called survival and prosperity. Even a purely economic union can do wonders for Armenia's economy. It will be interesting to watch this union develop and to see what kind of role Armenia will play in it.
            Armenia is also a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and joining the Eurasian Customs Union in Armenia's case was probably inevitable


            • #7
              Re: Eurasian Customs Union

              Georgia’s westward course

              By Jackson Diehl

              It was 10 years ago this month that Mikheil Saakashvili, then a 35-year-old U.S.-trained lawyer, led a march on the parliament of Georgia that overturned a corrupt and autocratic regime in that post-Soviet Caucasian state and inaugurated a liberal democratic surge in Eurasia. The “Rose Revolution” was followed a year later by Ukraine’s “Orange revolution”; the brash and charismatic Saakashvili soon became Georgia’s elected president and a symbol of pro-Western change, as despised in Moscow as he was admired in Washington.

              A decade later, the wave has receded. Last week, Ukraine, led by the same thuggish pol who had been ousted by the Orange revolt, backed away from an association agreement with the European Union and embraced Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin. It followed Armenia, which succumbed to Putin’s heavy-handed pressure earlier this fall. Only Moldova and Saakashvili’s Georgia are now pursuing deals with the E.U. and the embrace of democracy and free markets they require.

              As for Saakashvili, he’s back where he started in the United States, having ended his second presidential term last week, a year after his party suffered a decisive defeat in parliamentary elections. He’s out of favor at home and in Washington, which in the Obama era no longer pays much attention to Georgia or other post-Soviet countries.

              What’s more, Georgia’s shaky course toward Europe depends on its ex-president remaining out of the country, so that the autocratically inclined government that replaced him cannot imprison him.

              “The problem with my case is that if I get arrested that is the end of Georgia’s integration with Europe,” Saakashvili told me during a visit to Washington last week. He’s not exaggerating: Only his voluntary exile ensures that he will not share the fate of former Ukrainian prime minister and Orange revolution leader Yulia Tymoshenko, whose jailing triggered the E.U.-Ukraine fallout.

              So is liberal democracy dead in the former Soviet space? Will Putin now succeed in recreating something like Moscow’s Soviet empire with his Eurasian Union? Saakashvili, high spirited as ever, says: “No way.”

              “When you have radical reform, you know someone will come and try and repeal that reform,” he said. “It’s a cycle. But I don’t think they can take it back. This region is drifting toward the West regardless of the governments.”

              As Saakashvili sees it, Georgia, Ukraine and other Eurasian states are following the same halting course toward democracy and integration with the West that their onetime Warsaw Pact neighbors, such as Poland and Hungary, followed in the 1990s. The difference is that Russia has gone from Boris Yeltsin’s quasi-democracy to Putin’s intolerant and neo-imperialist regime.

              Putin bullies his neighbors with trade embargoes or, in Georgia’s case, military pressure, while offering tempting rewards to rulers whose commitment to liberalism is negotiable. “Putin’s soft power is corruption,” said Saakashvili. “If you want to go to the European Union you have to pass all these painful reforms so that you can fit in. For the Eurasian Union you only need to be weak and corrupt and willing to be manipulated by Putin. You can imprison your opposition and be praised for it.”

              The other difference is in the United States. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration strongly pushed Eastern European nations toward NATO and the E.U. Now it is Putin who is pushing, and the United States is absent. “It’s not that Russia is so strong,” Saakashvili said. “It’s the perception of American weakness and American absence. The perception of Russia now is that no matter what they do in our region, America is not going to respond.”

              So far Georgia has stayed on a westward course in spite of the fact that Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire who orchestrated the ousting of Saakashvili, has hinted that he might consider the Eurasian Union. That’s largely because the vast majority of Georgians prefer the E.U., and because the institutions Saakashvili created in the past 10 years have held up. Courts have tossed out political cases brought by the new government.

              Saakashvili’s government was itself frequently accused of bullying opponents; its electoral defeat was in part because of a scandal over the mistreatment of prisoners. Refreshingly, the ex-president is ready to confess “mistakes.” “There is always a temptation to grab more power,” he said. “People who come with democratic intentions, the first thing they do is grab more power because they think they have good intentions.

              “But they learn from this. Next time we are in power there will be a clear democratic practice — clear free media, clear democratic debate, a higher level of democracy.”

              Saakashvili predicts “the reformers will be back in Georgia,” eventually. In the recent presidential election, his party won 22 percent of the vote without him — enough to survive and rebuild. In the meantime, he’s rediscovering life as a virtually anonymous visitor to the United States.

              “I’m rejuvenated,” he exulted. “I’m basically starting from scratch. I’m not tired, and I don’t need a rest. But my people need a rest from me.”

              <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>


              • #8
                Re: Eurasian Customs Union

                67 percent of Armenia advocate[s] this decision [joining the EAU].… An interesting fact is that Georgian citizens also express significant support for the country’s joining the [Eurasian] Customs Union and the SES [Single Economic Space]: the share of positive answers has doubled over a year to 59%. This suggests that cooperation between Georgia and the Customs Union countries should be stepped up.… Azerbaijan has demonstrated the lowest level of support for joining the Customs Union and the SES (37%)

                <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>


                • #9
                  Re: Eurasian Customs Union

                  Georgia PM says 'why not?' on Eurasian Union

                  By Andrew Rettman

                  BRUSSELS - One day after Armenia said it will join Russia's Eurasian Union, Georgia's PM has said it might, in due course, do the same.

                  Speaking on national TV on Wednesday (4 September), the Prime Minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, said: "I am keeping a close eye on it [the Eurasian Union] and we are studying it. At this stage we have no position at all. If in perspective we see that it is in our country's strategic interest, then, why not? But at this stage we have no position at all."

                  The remark caused an instant reaction in Georgia's parliament.

                  Giorgi Gabashvili, an MP from the opposition UNM party, told the house: "I hope the Prime Minister lied and I hope the Georgian government in fact is not studying this option."

                  The PM's office later published a press release, circulated in Brussels by its PR firm, Cambre Associates, which noted: "While not ruling out the possibility of joining such a union in the future, should it be judged in the national interest, he [Ivanishvili] stated that 'At this stage, we have no position at all'."

                  Georgia's foreign minister, Maia Panjikidze, added: "The whole world is [studying the Eurasian Union project], including the EU. It is near us, of course we have to know what is going on."

                  The Eurasian Union is Russia's plan to create a new bloc of former Soviet republics in 2015.

                  But Georgia's official line is that it aims to join the EU and Nato instead.

                  As a first step, it plans to initial a political association and free trade pact with the European Union in November.

                  Meanwhile, with Russian forces still occupying two Georgian regions after a war in 2008, Russian relations are a hot topic.

                  For his part, Giga Bokeria, a senior UNM politician and the outgoing head of Georgia's National Security Council, told EUobserver that Ivanishvili's remark "is, at best, a sign of his incompetence."

                  He said: "I hope no one in his government is seriously studying it [the Eurasian Union]."

                  He noted: "The Eurasian Union is an instrument of [Russian leader] Putin to prevent the Euro-integration of neighbouring countries, to keep them in Russia's backyard as satellite states."

                  He added: "If Ivanishvili says he has 'no position' on it, even this is alarming. How can a democratically elected government have 'no position' on an instrument designed to subvert the country's sovereignty?"

                  Ivanishvili's remark came after Armenia's President, Serzh Sargsyan, on Tuesday surprised EU officials by saying his country will join the Russian bloc instead of signing EU pacts.

                  Russia is Armenia's main security guarantor in its frozen conflict with Azerbaijan.

                  In a sign of mounting pressure on its neighbours, Russia recently threatened Moldova and Ukraine with trade sanctions if they initial EU agreements.

                  "We expect more pressure before the Vilnius summit," a senior Moldovan diplomat told EUobserver on Wednesday, referring to an upcoming EU meeting with former Soviet countries.

                  Ivanishvili in July told this website it is his "dream" to transform Georgia into a "typically European" society.

                  But his ruling coalition contains far-right elements who say liberal EU values, such as gay rights, are incompatible with Georgia's Eastern Orthodox identity.

                  Ivanishvili became a billionaire in the metals, real estate and banking sectors in Russia in the 1990s.

                  He told EUobserver he has "no backchannels" to the Kremlin, however.

                  <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>


                  • #10
                    Re: Eurasian Customs Union

                    What are the chances of Georgia ultimately joining the Eurasian Union now that it has signed the EU agreement. Just observing Turkey's long struggled, combined with EU's fatigue of taking on poor and troubled states, I think it can be assumed that at best Georgia's ascension into the EU is at least 5-10 years away. Seeing how crucial Georgia's membership is for Armenia, what are the chances Georgia instead joins the Eurasian Union.
                    <<եթե զենք էլ չլինի' ես քարերով կկրվեմ>>