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Regional integration and economic convergence in the post-Soviet space

Libman A., Vinokurov E.

Libman A., Vinokurov E. (2010) Regional Integration and Economic Convergence in the post-Soviet Space: Experience of the Decade of Growth. MPRA Working Paper.

The conceptualization of the regional integration in social sciences usually refers to a number of different dimensions, ranging from regionalization through the interaction of businesses and individuals over state-promoted economic cooperation towards an increase of regional cohesion and convergence (Hurrell, 1995). The European integration experience assumes a specific sequence of these processes (if not the causal link between them) – from the integration of the markets of goods towards free movement and capital and labor and finally increasing convergence of regional economies. However, non-European regionalism sometimes reverses the sequence and demonstrates different combinations of the aspects of regionalization and regionalism. This paper aims to look at one particular case of this nonEuropean regional integration, studying specifically the interaction between the integration of markets of goods, factor movements and economic convergence, studying the experience of the former Soviet Union (FSU) countries. Studying FSU is relevant from three perspectives. First, the usual assumption of regionalism is that the regional integration proceeds from a relatively disjointed region towards a greater regional unity. It is to a certain extent true for Europe (although European regional awareness is much older than the Treaty of Rome), but is quite unlikely to be the case for other regions of the world, where “regional integration” usually masks a combination of “coming together” and “falling apart” processes, for example, from the old colonial heritage (which also established a specific pattern of regional interdependence, integration and even federalism) or even pre-colonial economic and political linkages. The FSU area seems to be a good field for analyzing these phenomena and their influence on the interaction of different aspects of regionalism. Second, the design of the international cooperation in the FSU has been, at least formally, heavily influenced by the European experience, and the post-Soviet regionalism could be perceived as an attempt to copy the EU up to the letter– a situation which seems to have changed only recently with the advancement of the “open regionalism” thinking in the policy debate on the FSU integration (Kosikova, 2010). Hence, it is also interesting to look at the differences between the impact of very similar formal institutions given differences in economic environment.

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