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Expert: EAEU will get more problems if Tajikistan joins it

Andrey Grozin. Photo: 365info.kz

The lower house of the Tajik parliament has adopted amendments to the Administrative Offence Code stipulating that those concealing their dual citizenship should be either fired or fined $115-140. A year ago, the Tajik Parliament adopted an amendment to the law on public service prohibiting people with dual citizenship from holding public or military officers.

Now the Tajik authorities will have to from a commission that will search for hidden passports. The latter amendment may cover as many as 20,000 public servants. It is not known how many of them have Russian passports. What is known is that no single Russian passport has been given back since the amendment was approved. Instead, over 3,000 Tajiks apply for Russian citizenship each year. And this is not illegal as in 1995 Russia and Tajikistan signed an agreement on dual citizenship. Tajikistan has no such agreements with other states. Are those amendments aimed against Tajiks having Russian passports? In an interview to EADaily, Head of Central Asia and Kazakhstan Department of the CIS Institute Andrey Grozin has answered this and some other questions.

I don’t think that we should see any anti-Russian sentiments in what is going on. Some Tajik public servants have Iranian and even Western passports. Yes, those having Russian passports prevail but this is not an anti-Russian measure. This is Tajikistan’s internal affair. President Emomali Rahmon is building an emirate, a neo-Medieval state ruled by a dynasty. Such a rule implies absolute loyalty of subjects as a guarantee against palace coups.

How strong is Rahmon?

He has a big family – as many as 150 people or even more. The old elite is no longer in power. Those with own interests and ambitions and those who remember the pre-Rahmon times have been replaced. As a result, the number of those who can govern the country is decreasing. Today, Tajikistan has no more than 1,500-2,000 public servants. But this is not a problem as Rahmon can find recruits from his family or can follow the example of the Gulf monarchies and hire foreigners.

But the latter option implies additional costs. Low managerial efficiency is a problem even in much more successful states, like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. According to independent experts, economic problems, insecurity and inter-elite conflict require governments to work better but they are not able to do it for a number of objective and subjective reasons. Tajikistan is much poorer country and is unable to solve its administrative and economic problems.

Concerning economy, the Tajik authorities have prohibited sale of foreign currency…

The Turkmen authorities did that much earlier but are still existent. In Uzbekistan, foreign investors face lots of problems. The goal is to attract investors but investors refuse to work in countries offering them no profits or normal conversion conditions. The biggest problem for Tajikistan is the shrinking inflow of USD from labor migrants – from $4bn in 2015 to $1.1bn in 2016 (almost 30%). The key reasons are depreciated RUR and shrinking inflows of labor migrants. Now that the Russian economy is in recession, the rivalry on the labor market will be growing. Membership to the Eurasian Economic Union has even Kyrgyzstan advantage over Tajikistan or even Uzbekistan.

Why doesn’t Tajikistan want to join the Eurasian Economic Union?

Trade, trade and once again trade. The Tajiks want to get what the Kyrgyzs got before the crisis and even more. They want the Russians to give them a lot of money so they could solve their problems. This is a kind of a bazaar: they are considering options and can do this as long as they wish as their shrinking transfers are having no impact on their budget. That money goes to households and only then, indirectly, to the budget.

The defeat of the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan was followed by silence. Is it deceptive?

There is some limit to people’s readiness to change the political situation. In Tajikistan, people still remember their last civil war. But their kids know nothing of those times. So, the ruling regime is trying to build a system where young people have no idea how they can live without Emomali Rahmon or his son Rustam Emomali. But the people who supported the Islamic Renaissance Party are still there. Some of them are in jails, the others have gone to Syria and Iraq, some have been killed, the others have come back. According to the special services, almost 1,500 Tajiks are fighting in the Middle East for the moment – not much for a country with a population of 8,000,000 people but enough for shattering a weak country like Tajikistan.

This is why the Tajik authorities were the first in Central Asia to launch a program to justify and reintegrate former ISIL fighters if they prove that they fought against their will. It is hard to say how effective this program is. But the problem is that not all of such people are controlled. Some of them go to Syria via Russia and other states and the Tajik special services are not so close with their Russian colleagues as their counterparts from Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan are.

There are systems working in the framework of multi-side organizations – the Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This is one more reason why Tajikistan is not keen to join the Eurasian Economic Union. It is quite active in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and even hosts a Russian military base.

Who may prevent Tajikistan from joining the Eurasian Economic Union?

Rahmon is making overtures to the West and is welcome in Europe. The same is true for the Gulf monarchies. All of them are promising him support but are not rushing to fulfill their promises. With Iran, things are not so good. With China things are much better. The Chinese are dominant in the Tajik economy, with the Tajiks owing them more than any of their neighbors.

So, obviously, the Chinese would not like to see the Tajiks joining the Eurasian Economic Union. But there are not proofs that they are doing something to keep them away from the Union. Nor is there any evidence of the Russians’ doing something to involve the Tajiks in it. Geopolitically, if you don’t grow, you make no headway and turn into an object for others’ projects.

But geopolitics do not fill a purse. The Eurasian Economic Union already has a problematic country that will face elections this fall, and opinions differ what they will end up with. So, it hardly needs one more burden. In terms security, if the Union admits Tajikistan it will get more problems as it will have a border with Afghanistan. So, I think the Russian elite has made no final decision on whether to admit the Tajiks or not. Otherwise, this problem would have long been settled.

By Georgy Semyonov

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