IIASA Working Paper.
Despite the severe crisis in the EU-Russia relationship, we think that efforts invested in structuring and mapping a future EU-EAEU rapprochement would be time well spent. There is an ongoing debate about the appropriateness of the official dialogue and deepening of cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). The current state of debate on the EU side is truly disappointing. As a matter of fact, EU experts are currently debating not how to structure dialogue with the EAEU, but rather whether such a dialogue should exist at all. Here is a very short review of the recent views expressed by the EU authors. Mark Leonard and Ivan Krastev from the European Council on Foreign Relations express the view that “the best hope for the EU is to establish that working relations with Russia could be through the EU’s engagement with the EAEU” (Leonard, Krastev, 2014). Rilka Dragneva-Lewers and Kataryna Wolczuk from the University of Birmingham recommend focusing EU-EAEU relations only on trade, assuming that the EAEU is not really a credible partner (and competitor). Their position is that “engagement with the EAEU should move forward with due caution and include a number of conditions with regard to Russia's actions in Ukraine as well as Russia's WTO commitments. It is important that any dialogue includes, apart from Russia, the Eurasian Economic Commission and other EAEU member states, if only to prevent Russia from monopolising the EAEU's external agenda and avoid the marginalisation of the eastern neighbours inside and outside the Eurasian bloc” (DragnevaLewers, Wolczuk, 2015). DGAP expert Stefan Meister points out the problem of politicizing of all relations between the EU and Russia. He believes that it would be more prudent to upgrade collaboration between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union not through politicization, but based on pragmatic principles, in order to improve economic relations with the EAEU member states. The EU’s strengths, he writes, lie in its ability to negotiate technical standards and reduce barriers between the EU as an economic area and the EAEU, not in political haggling with Moscow that does not really serve EU interests (Meister, 2015). By contrast, Susan Stewart from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (German Institute for International and Security Affairs - SWP) asserts that the dialogue between the EU and the EAEU is a return to failed approaches, so there is no need for such a dialogue (Stewart, 2015). In a much more nuanced tone, another SWP expert, Alexander Libman, suggests that the EU-EAEU dialogue format has several advantages, but is not wholly adequate to overcome the fundamental contradictions between Russia and the EU (Libman, 2015).