Newsroom / ÖKG Panel Discussion on 23 October 2018

ÖKG Panel Discussion on 23 October 2018

ÖKG Panel Discussion on 23 October 2018

EU and EEU: Perspectives of a partnership

On 23 October 2018, the Austrian-Kazakh Society (ÖKG) together with the Austrian-Belarusian Society (ÖWG) and the Research Centre for Eurasian Studies at the University of Vienna organised a panel discussion on "The Eurasian Economic Union and the EU - Perspectives and Limits of a Partnership". Around 50 interested parties from ministries, banks, embassies, various international universities and Austrian companies accepted the invitation to join our firm.

Alexander Dubowy (EURAS), Vladislav Belov (RAN), Julia Eder (JKU Linz), Prof. Otmar Höll (University of Vienna), Prof. Zhenis Kembaev (KIMEP), Prof. Vyacheslav Yaroshevich (MITSO) discussed the perspectives of the partnership between the EU and EEU.

EU to approach EEU impartially

In his welcoming address, Gabriel Lansky (President of the ÖKG) outlined the prospects for an opening of the EU to Eurasian Economic Union, but stressed at the same time that the transatlantic axis between Western Europe and the USA remained an important constant despite diverging views in some areas, such as energy and security policy. Nevertheless, it is time "for the EU to define more independent strategic positions". This would include an unbiased approach to the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union). The peace project within the EU requires a peace project with the EEU space, which can be achieved through close economic interdependence and constant exchange at all levels. "Stability and peaceful relations instead of mistrust, isolation and sanctions are the guarantee of success for a prosperous neighbourhood". The Ukrainian crisis and unresolved territorial issues in the South Caucasus are a warning example. The enormous economic potential that lies in good cooperation between the EU and the EMU should be raised from Lisbon to Vladivostok in the admittedly distant goal of a free trade area.

ÖKG President Gabriel Lansky opens the panel discussion
Alexander Dubowy (Research Centre for Eurasian Studies) and Vladislav Belov of the European Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

EEU as part of an alternative state organisation

Prof. Peter Bachmaier (President of the ÖWG) emphasized in his welcoming address that the Eurasian Economic Union () is building an alternative world at the same time as the Organization for Collective Security, the BRICS states and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Belorus, as part of the Union state Russia/Belorus, is an essential component of these state organizations and can thus better defend its sovereignty and security.

EEU is not an ideological project

The panel discussion was chaired by Prof. Otmar Höll from the Institute of Political Science at the University of Vienna. The expert on international politics spoke of an increasingly multipolar world, in which a "power shift" to the East could be observed. Vladislav Belov of the Europa-Institut in Moscow pointed out that the EEU, founded in 2015, was a priority vector in Russia's foreign policy orientation. The USA and EU watched the EEU with suspicion because they feared a dominance of Russia and thus a restoration of the old Soviet Union. But there was not the slightest intention of a return to the Soviet Union, that was "an ideologized attitude". According to Vladislav Belov, the development of the EEU as a bridge between Europe and Asia was a key project, as the Union has "great transit potential. Trade within the EEU is growing and trade with external partners is growing. The most recent example is the free trade agreement with Vietnam. At the same time, there is serious competition from the Chinese "One Belt One Road" project, which, among other things, is associated with the danger of diverting goods from Asia by bypassing the EEU countries. At the same time, Vladislav Belov was sceptical about the prospects for the development of official relations between the EU and the EEU, as the European Union did not want to recognise integration in the post-Soviet space. Russia remains a "global player", even through intensified cooperation with China - despite sanctions.

Prof. Otmar Höll moderated the discussion

EEU is primarily an economic union

Kazakhstan's representative Prof. Zhenis Kembaev stressed that the EEU was in principle structured according to the same logic as the EU, but did not represent a supranational political union. From the outset, President Nazarbaev was both a driver of the idea of an economic union and a supporter of the sovereignty of the individual member states. Kazakhstan is also a member of the Collective Security Organisation, which complements the EEU and serves to defend the member states. Islamic fundamentalism and the colour revolutions in particular were seen as dangers for the states. The Eurasian states aspired to a multipolar world. In May 2018, an agreement was signed between the EEU and China on the New Silk Road. Prof. Vyacheslav Yaroshevich from the Belarusian State University Minsk emphasized the sovereignty of Belarus within the framework of the EEU, but at the same time acknowledged the close economic and political relations with Russia, without which the country could not exist. His country is a winner in the alliance because of his commercial profile. Belarus has achieved the highest degree of integration, accounting for 50% of internal trade. Belarus is the only post-Soviet state that is not a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has no interest in it. As an example of the success of cooperation with the Eurasian Union and China for Belarus, he mentioned the "High Technologies Park" near Minsk, an extraterritorial special economic zone. The establishment of new and sustainable industrial structures is both a necessity and a major challenge for Belarus.

Sociologist Julia Eder presents her research results

EEU works successfully - but there is a risk of reprimarisation

Julia Eder, sociologist at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, is working on a dissertation on the EEU in comparison to the economic union Mercosur. According to their studies, one can say that the EEUworks very well in comparison - although it has only existed since 2015. Although Eder is observing a process of reintegration, this has nothing to do with a restoration of the Soviet Union. The EEUstates see economic cooperation, above all for the development of new industrial sectors, as a great opportunity. Nevertheless, there is a danger of reprimarisation, i.e. a return to commodities.

Former foreign trade delegate Dietmar Fellner (of counsel LGP) led through the evening

Ukraine crisis, implementation of the 4 freedoms and Russia's economic dynamism as a challenge for the EEU

Alexander Dubowy, coordinator of the Research Centre for Eurasian Studies (EURAS), pointed out the current problems, including in particular the EU and US sanctions against Russia. He identifies three major problem areas: geopolitics, integration policy, motivation policy. The Ukrainian crisis led to latent tensions within the EEU. In Belarus and Kazakhstan there was uncertainty about territorial inviolability. In Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, one suffers from transit restrictions within the framework of counter sanctions. The 4 freedoms have not yet been implemented due to many exceptions. Infringement proceedings such as those in the EU are not possible in the EEU. Due to Russia's weak economic dynamism, there are currently no additional incentives for more integration among the other members and potential accession candidates. Russia's possible striving for hegemony would be weakened by the other partners.

The participants with Prof. Peter Bachmaier (President of the ÖWG)

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