Eurasian Partnership – One More Unsuccessful Project

This time I will talk not about the virus. I will talk about friendship between nations. 
When five years ago Moscow constructed so-called Eurasian Economic Partnership (EEP), people in Europe (in Lithuania, too) started ring…

This time I will talk not about the virus. I will talk about friendship between nations. 
When five years ago Moscow constructed so-called Eurasian Economic Partnership (EEP), people in Europe (in Lithuania, too) started ringing the alarm bells – we will have something that will be an attractive alternative to the European Union, which might even win the competition between them and maybe even ‘entice away’ so-called partnership countries of the East to the side of Asia. In papers EEP actually had quite pleasant optimistic visions to Moscow. Five years have passed and what do we have?
Nothing much. Nothing in the broadest sense of the word.
The most important political goal of the EEP (nobody was even hiding it) was maintainance of influence of Russia and strengthening of power in the former republics of the USSR. Are these republics – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kirgizstan now more dependent on Russia than five years ago? Hardly. Even Belarus started talking about its ‘own way’ more and more often.
Partnership of customs duties and free movement of goods and other things encouraging economic integration so far concentrates not on integration of five states but about individual relations of four countries with Russia, because in any case it is the ‘big brother’ to all of them almost in all senses.
Achievements of the economic partnership prove that the trade between the EEP countries and the countries that do not belong to it varies subject to prices of oil and sanctions that are being imposed on Russia by the West. Whereas the price of oil to Russia is unattractively low and imposition of sanctions also does not flatter, a formal participation in the EEP actually does not change the situation. Actually, maybe even encumbers.   
However, experts note that not economy is the main reason of stagnation of the EEP. Five countries that belong to it have very different geopolitical interests and different future visions of their countries. As I’ve mentioned, Russia wants to enhance its influence in the region, ‘minor’ countries want to increase their economic power. ‘Leadership’ of Russia is rather an inevitable geopolitical ‘fee’ than joy. Countries of the Middle East are not interested in ‘troubles’ of Armenia with Azerbaijan or the future of Lukashenka and so on.
Russia understands that the EEP will survive until ‘minor’ countries have no other alternatives. It succeeded somehow to fight off the ‘minor’ countries from the Western Europe (actually, not to the full extent), however will it succeed to fight off from China that might attract it to the side of the EEP in a theoretical point of view even with all Russia? Countries of the Middle East now already trade more with China than Russia and what is more important, they see that Beijing has more possibilities than Moscow to ‘buy’ their economy. (Unless the virus will change everything…). The Asian republics were expecting to attract more qualified specialists through Moscow; however Moscow has not proposed anything interesting. Armenia was expecting Moscow to become its steady ally in the issue of   Nagorno-Karabakh, however it did not become one. Belarus was expecting…Now we do not have much courage to explain what it was expecting, but actually it did not get any hopeful presents. 
Has a common area of goods, services and other freedoms appeared? In the formal sense, it had to be, however exceptions, reservations and other trade and service barriers are still more powerful than movement of Western-style goods, services, people and funds. Kazakhstan and Kirgizia continue blaming each other of non-observance of trade rules and protectionism. Establishment of the planned market of electricity has been postponed until 2025; a unanimous labour market is becoming an economic migration towards Moscow.
It seems that even in Russia there are more people who are disappointed in the EEP as one more unsuccessful project. It does not remind of integration even as a shadow in the Western Europe and it does not make Russia more powerful – influence of Moscow has not increased in a political sense and in economical point of view the EEP is becoming even unnecessary economic and financial burden. Maybe it’s just a fate of the one that still wants to be ‘big brother’ to the neighbouring countries.  
Events of the recent period demonstrate that neither natural resources of the Big Brother nor power of the Giant, according to a poet, will protect from a virus. Let’s say – a lesson of history. Or maybe a lesson of biology?   Egidijus Vareikis Member of the Seimas

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