Russia in Global Affairs. November-December.
Will the idea of an economic integration agreement between the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union ever come to fruition?
At this point, even raising the question seems a non-starter. Relations between the EU and Russia – the country that accounts for 87% of total GDP and a full 75% of the population of the EEU – are in deep crisis. Economic cooperation is being consumed by the current exchange of sanctions. Firmly grasping the gravity of the situation, we are reminded of the origins of the European Union – and of the discussions that took place in 1944-1945. It was at this time that the foundations of European integration were first laid (just as, back in its day, the Bretton-Woods system created the present-day structure of trade and financial relations). The foundations of the new have frequently been laid in times of crisis. Who would have thought back in 1944 that in just ten short years, the European Community would start to take on tangible forms?
Country leaders and officials are already expressing their support for the idea of ‘European-Eurasian’ economic integration. The President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, put forward a proposal to begin consideration of the idea of a free-trade zone with the EU at the EU-Russia summit held on 28 January 2014. On 5 February, the proposal was embraced by the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. By 12 September, we were hearing words of official support for free-trade negotiations from the European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighborhood Policy, Štefan Füle. According to Füle, the time has come for the establishment of official ties at the level of the two unions – the European and the Eurasian – with a view to starting the negotiation process. The Europeans are coming to the realization that the problem of Eastern partnership cannot be solved without Russian participation. Moreover, a new entity has arisen that must be dealt with – the EEU (heretofore, the EU had been blatantly ignoring both the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Commission for years). On the other hand, there’s always a fly in the ointment: Füle’s term in office is swiftly coming to an end.