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Is EAEU ready to expand through Iran and Moldova?

Kubat Rakhimov. Photo: Kubat Rakhimov

Supreme Eurasian Economic Council has convened in Bishkek today, on April 14. Presidents of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Armenia are attending the session. There are also unexpected guests at the Kyrgyz president’s residence of Ala Archa, specifically, President of Moldova Igor Dodon and high-ranking representatives of Iran. Apparently, the official program of the session that includes discussion of “pressing issues of economic cooperation within the EAEU and international cooperation and further integration in the Eurasian space” is not full. Head of the Committee for Industrial Policy of the Kyrgyz Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) Kubat Rakhimov answers a range of EADaily’s questions.

What is behind Moldova’s sudden and so high interest in EAEU?

As for Moldova, I think it will be enough to grant a status of an observer to it. President Igor Dodon needs to settle problems with opponents inside the country, first. In my opinion, Moldova’s gradual integration into the EAEU may cause problems, as certain forces may start using it as a kind of geopolitical lever against Ukraine, and there is Transnistrian issue. One can just guess how the Tiraspol issue will be resolved. That is why I think it is more expedient to provide Moldova a status of an observer until the regime in that country is stabilized. Moldova’s economy is not large-scale and attractive enough to risk getting a bunch of new problems for it.

The second bloc of issues is the agreement with Iran. Tehran is offered a temporary treaty that provides for a stage-by-stage involvement into what they call deep cooperation. They are discussing Free Trade Area issues, mutual permission to export certain groups of commodities.

Does Iran seek an EAEU membership or just trade relations and the market of the union?

There is a mutual interest. Yet, things are not that easy. For instance, activation of relations with Iran will cost Kyrgyzstan a number of positions on the market, since Iran’s agricultural produce, dried fruits are better than those produced in Kyrgyzstan. This became a reason for marginal politicians to reanimate the dispute over expediency of Kyrgyzstan joining EAEU. It is senseless. The country has already aligned with the Union and disputed should be transferred to another level, watching for benefits from the EAEU membership, even from negative moments. For instance, Kyrgyzstan’s EAEU membership unveiled many problems in the Kyrgyz-Kazakh relations. We are almost in a crisis now, but it is good, as we can see all problems and know what to fight and what to work on. Without EAEU, I am afraid, we would keep hushing each other. Now about Belarus. President Alexander Lukashenko did not want to pay for gas, he was offered a preferential loan and he paid Russia $720 million and signed the EAEU Customs Code. Yet, at the end of 2016, he refused to do it, which seriously impeded the relations with Russia and created problems for the entire union. Belarusian experts said Minsk was thinking over the Code throughout that time. I think, it was an element of bargaining. That's the way the world wags. Multilateral ties are always built on bilateral ties inside a union and the vice versa.

EAEU countries no longer conceal that Kyrgyzstan is the most problematic country for the union. Is there any action plan for Bishkek?

Once I suggested two ideas that have suddenly enlisted support by many. “Plan A” was a rotating capital of EAEU. For instance, 3-5 years – Bishkek, the next 3-5 years – Yerevan etc. It is useful for the countries “lagging” behind others. The multiplicative effect may be quite visible. It would be very useful for Kyrgyzstan to receive for a while the staff of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EAEC) that involves the best officials of the EAEU countries. If a thousand of the Commission’s specialists arrived in Kyrgyzstan and helped our employees in the government sector and business society on an every-day basis. The country would improve its positions as an EAEU member much more quickly. “Plan B” is decentralization of the EAEC. That is, department must be located in member countries and communicate making conference calls, video conference etc. This will help upgrading qualification of local specialists and focusing on strong points. For instance, everything connected with IT must be moved to Minsk, as Belarus is the leading in that aspect. These issues will be discussed on sidelines of the summit.

Interviewed by Georgy Semyonov

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