Bordachev: Armenian society ill-informed about Eurasian integration advantages
How should Russia treat its Eurasian Economic Union partners? How will Moscow react to a new framework deal between Armenia and the European Union? What should be done to demonstrate Eurasian integration advantages to the Armenian society? Timofei Bordachev, a Russian political analyst and the Programme Director of Valdai Club Foundation, is answering ARKA News Agency’s questions.
ARKA – How will Moscow react to a new framework deal between Armenia and the European Union, which will be sealed soon?
Bordachev – Vigen Sargsyan, Armenian defense minister, speaking at a session of Valdai Discussion Club, said that it is very important to be honest with each other and to meet the assumed commitments.
As I know, the new agreement between Armenia and the European Union is being prepared in an atmosphere of full openness toward Yerevan’s Eurasian Economic Union allies.
Besides, this agreement will absolutely not contradict the commitments Armenia has assumed as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union. That is why I see no material grounds for any problem.
But there is another insignificant difficulty here – our European partners use our every contact with them as evidence of the lack of confidence in our own project.
And any agreement of a Eurasian Economic Union member country with the European Union, no matter Armenia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Belarus, will be interpreted in the European political discussion as a safety net and as non-confidence in our own integration project. And this is not so direct, but still a rhetoric-level damage. We will face this and we should be ready.
ARKA – There is also a technical question. How to combine close economic relations with the European Union with the membership in the Eurasian Economic Union?
Bordachev – The free trade zone and preferential trade agreements with GSP+ scheme are different things. Important is to have no legal controversies. Now there are not such controversies, as I know, i.e. the agreement with the European Union will contain nothing barring Armenia from complying with its commitments toward the Eurasian Economic Union. And later we will see particular results. To be honest, I don’t think they will be so devastating for the Eurasian integration.
ARKA – Tension in relations between Russia and Belarus gives grounds for skepticism toward the Eurasian Economic Union and for additional arguments from those who are opposed to Eurasian integration. What scheme of relations with partners is considered in Moscow?
Bordachev – Yes, you are absolutely right, the Eurasian Economic Union faces fierce resistance and intolerance, first of all, in Europe. Such a relationship between Russia and Belarus will be interpreted not in our favor.
At the same time, I think such a kind of tension was inevitable, since our relations with Belarus should come out of the post-Soviet epoch, when they were based solely on personal contacts, on some bilateral preferences, closed to others, and on some special conditions. We should move these relations into the Eurasian Economic Union mode. Nobody argues the idea that Russia should support its Eurasian Economic Union partners, since this will be politically and economically beneficial to it also in terms of security.
On the other side, Russia will pay for that, but it have to pay not bags with money and not endless discounts for energy resources. Russia has to pay this way – it will focus the Eurasian Union’s diplomacy on boosting member countries’ interests in its negotiations with outside partners.
Assume that Vietnam or Malaysia want to have free trade agreements with Eurasian Economic Union. If so, they have to buy, for example, Belarusian tractors or Armenian vegetables and fruits.
Or if China wants to get access to the market of the Eurasian Economic Union countries, it ought to lift restrictions from Armenian wine.
We have to work in such categories without making direct financial transfers, though all this is nevertheless inevitable through the Eurasian Economic Union budget and the Eurasian Development Bank, but first of all through boosting each other’s economic interests at outside markets. I consider this very important.
Let’s consider the same example with Armenia. Wine industry is vigorously developing in the country, and China is a growing wine market.
Asian markets are the growing wine markets, and now our Eurasian diplomacy should move up member countries’ commodities to these markets.
ARKA – Armenian citizens see no significant results from their country’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. Is it possible to demonstrate them Eurasian integration advantages?
Bordachev – The Armenian society doesn’t see its benefit so far, since it is still ill-informed. All the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union have the same problem – their citizens are not sufficiently informed about Eurasian integration advantages.
Eurasian integration gives equal rights to Armenian citizens at Russia’s labor market, and this is not so little for Armenia’s population. We should understand that citizens of Armenia, or, for example Kyrgyzstan or Belarus, would not have had rights equal to Russian citizens’ rights at Russia’s labor market without Eurasian economic integration. This is much. This is important. These things should be told people.
ARKA – What untapped hidden reserves for development of Eurasian integration you see?
Bordachev – Attraction of direct foreign investments. If, for example, South Korea wants free trade zone agreements with the Eurasian Economic Union, we should have clear guarantees and an institutional mechanism of the flow of investments in the Eurasian Economic Union from this country.
And not only to the destination where they go – Russia or Kazakhstan, but also to other union member countries, such as Armenia.
That is why it is necessary to create mechanisms and joint banks. It is also necessary to connect outside partners to the institutions we have.
And the Eurasian Economic Union countries themselves should propose clear projects understandable to investors, who can implement them in their own territories, create jobs and release products.