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20 September, 2013 18:16   ▪  

Experts on Putin’s disastrous neighbourhood policy

Russia could expand the reach of its new Customs Union by entering into high-quality free trade agreements with the states that want also to have DCFTAs with the EU. Instead, it insists on playing 19th century zero-sum games of geo-political competition, experts Michael Emerson and Hrant Kostanyan write for the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) Commentary

Armenia may have had its concerns that influenced its latest decision (Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan agreed to join the Russian-dominated Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus on September 3 – Ed.). But in a more global context, “Armenian story is only a part of a grander Russian campaign to also dissuade Ukraine and Moldova from signing their DCFTAs with the EU,” analysts Michael Emerson and Hrant Kostanyan claim in their publication on the online CEPS Commentary. 

President Putin is doing all he can to expand his Customs Union with coercive measures, denying the economic interests of the targeted states for more open economic relationships with the rest of the world, and with the EU in particular, the article explains. Meanwhile, “the status of the Customs Union itself is still uncertain. It cannot be recognised by the WTO or brought under WTO rules since Kazakhstan and Belarus are not yet members of the WTO. Kazakhstan is negotiating accession, but whether it accepts Russia’s WTO-bound tariffs as its own is not yet clear,” the experts claim.

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To solve this problem, the EU has to apply all possible tools. It has already started preparations to help Moldova overcome the Russian ban of its wines. In his remarks to the European Parliament, Commissioner Füle reported that he and the Commissioner for Agriculture “intend to look into the possibility of being able to further increase the wine quota for Moldovan exports to the EU”, CEPS Commentary quotes.

Russia could expand the reach of its new Customs Union by entering into high-quality free trade agreements with the states that want also to have DCFTAs with the EU. In addition, Russia and the EU could open discussions over a free trade agreement between the Customs Union and the EU itself. These steps would be worthy of such expressions as our common European home, where the aim should be the establishment of a common economic space from ‘Lisbon to Vladivostok’ (Putin’s idea). Russia should be willing to make a concordat with the EU, best starting tomorrow,” the article argues. 

What has to be hammered home to those unsure of the economic arguments is that you do not have to have an exclusive customs union to enjoy deep integration for goods, services, people and capital, the experts conclude.

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