Sunday, October 30, 2011

Week 24-30 Oct.: Integration in the "Eurasia Union", a relative concept

The last week of October was marked by an intense activity in the field of EU-South Caucasus relations.
Both the Council and the Commission had their staff in the region, in the persons of the Special Representative and the EC director for Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus, and Central Asia, Gunnar Wiegand.

The last reassured Armenian counterpart that the free-trade deal signed with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Tajikistan in the framework of CIS system will not hinder a possible Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with EU. This is in line with what Vladimir Putin suggested, in his well know article/manifesto "A new integration project for Eurasia: the future in making".

The point is he meaning of the concept of "integration".
In EU wording, integration means a common environment, or - recalling EU commissioner for Taxation and Custom Union Algiras Shemeta's speach ( convergence of legislation and procedures.
In the expectation of many observers and citizens of South Caucasus, EU integration means membership. Being integrated in EU would mean being a EU State.
In fact, membership implies integration, but not necessary vice versa.

It is a bit puzzling to understand what Putin means for integration. A part of the article published by Izvestija is dedicated to a comparison between the Eurasia project and the EU one. There are of course references to the Soviet legacy. The Soviet Union was, by the way, not an integrated system, but a single system.
So, in a scale from "a single system" to "reinforced agreements between states", where is the Eurasia Union located? And where the South Caucasus in the Eurasia Union?

Describing this Union, Putin defines it as a "supernational association" and an open project with unified standards and regulations for goods and services. It sounds like a pragmatic economic plan to coordinate and integrate different economies on the basis of a topic agenda.

Will this project attract the attention of the Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan?
For Georgia, ça va sans dire, no.
Armenia and Azerbaijan will probably decide step by step.
A lot will depend on how much this "Eurasia Union" is a feasible project.
And on what "integration" means.

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