Bridging of EU and Eurasian Economic Union

Friday, May 12

Thorfinnur Omarsson, European Free Trade Association
Peter Havlik, The Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies and International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Vladislav Maslennikov, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation
Gregor Woschnagg, former EU permanent representative of Austria

Franz Nauschnigg, Oesterreichische Nationalbank

On May 12, the JVI hosted a debate on the prospects of integration between the European Union (EU) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which consists of five former members of the Soviet Union: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Russia. The panel of three experts represented a range of expertise on economic integration. Mr. Franz Nauschnigg of the National Bank of Austria moderated the debate.

Mr. Peter Havlik of the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies (wiiw), launched the discussion by pointing out the large asymmetries within the EU and the EAEU as well as between them in terms of both the size of member economies and the volume of bilateral trade. For example, while the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was a market for only about 4 percent of total EU exports, the EU took in more than 50 percent of total CIS exports. Mr. Havlik called for the Russian economy to further modernize in order to enhance its competitiveness and diversify its exports. In his opinion, integration between the EU and the EAEU might help resolve not just economic but also some geopolitical issues—closer integration might make it easier for other countries to avoid having to choose which union to join. He also pointed out, however, that currently integration of the two unions might be perceived as “competitive integrations” rather than an “integration of integrations.” 

Mr.Vladislav Maslennikov from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation spoke on integration in Eurasia and the prospects of establishing common economic and humanitarian space from the Atlantic to the Pacific. He noted that economic cooperation and trade within members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) had significantly increased in the past years and there were plans to deepen integration even further. Also, many countries all over the world had already expressed interest to cooperate with the EAEU. Therefore, according to the Russian diplomat, developing ties between the EAEU and the EU was essential and timely as it would contribute to peace and stability in the Eurasian region for the benefit of all parties.

Finally, Mr. Gregor Woschnagg, formerly Austria’s permanent representative to the EU, echoed the arguments for modernization of the Russian economy. He also noted that while there is mutual interest in integration, a number of political and diplomatic issues between the EU and the EAEU would first have to be resolved. Looking forward, he agreed that more cooperation and dialogue will be important.

A lively Q&A session followed the panel presentations. The concerns and comments from the audience touched upon a number of aspects of trade and technical agreements between Russia and the EU, the situation in and around the Ukraine, and how that might affect Russia-EU relations. In response the panelists again called for more dialogue and cooperation between the unions to dismantle obstacles to further integration.

Asel Isakova, Economist, JVI

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