https://central.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_ca/features/2019/11/01/feature-01
| Economy

Uzbeks speak out about risks to sovereignty in joining Russia-dominated EEU

By Maksim Yeniseyev

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Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Russian Federation Council chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko shake hands in Tashkent October 3. [Uzbek presidential press office]

TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan risks becoming politically and economically dependent on Russia if it were to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), analysts and political observers are warning.

Raucous discussions have stirred up again over the potential entry of the country into the Russian-dominated economic bloc after a video of a speech delivered in the Uzbek parliament by Valentina Matviyenko, the chairwoman of Russia's Federation Council, was posted online on October 2.

In her speech, Matviyenko strongly suggested that Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev had already decided that the country would join the organisation.

"We know that the Uzbek president has made a decision, and the matter of Uzbekistan's ascension to the Eurasian Economic Union is now being worked out," she said in her speech to the Uzbek parliament. "If it happens, of course it will be a big, big deal, since an integrated economic union is in keeping with international best practices."

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A Becker & K supermarket can be seen in this photo taken in Almaty on October 29. The unjust and costly administrative barriers in Russia that this Kazakh company has been forced to deal with for the past three years is just one of the many examples that Central Asian states belonging to the EEU face in the Russia-dominated bloc. [Kanat Altynbayev]

It was a "wise decision by the [Uzbek] president", she added.

Matviyenko expressed hope that "the process won't drag out" and that Russia and Uzbekistan will have the opportunity to work together "as part of the Eurasian family."

Matviyenko's statement was not clarified until October 4, when Sadyk Safayev (Sodiq Safoyev), deputy chairman of the Senate, answered journalists' questions in parliament.

No decision has been made, he said, adding, "Uzbekistan is not a state that can be pressured."

"For now there is no decision; work is proceeding, and consultations are in progress with all the EEU countries," Safayev said.

The work has been going on for three years, and the public will be informed when authorities have formed an opinion on the matter, he said.

No decision from president

Matviyenko's comments were off base, said Tashkent political analyst Valerii Khan.

"It's notable that for a day not a single Uzbek politician or Uzbek state media outlet reacted in any way to this statement by Matviyenko," Khan said. "Evidently it caught the Uzbek side by surprise, and no decision has been made yet, despite what she said. It appeared that Matviyenko attributed to the Uzbek president a decision he hadn't made yet."

Mirziyoyev did not react to Matviyenko's comments.

However, earlier this year he cautiously spoke out on the topic. In a June 23 speech to parliament, he alluded to the potential dangers of joining the EEU.

"We need to find the right path. We need to examine everything, weigh it 10 times and make a decision," said Mirziyoyev, noting that Uzbekistan conducts 70% of its trade with Russia and the EEU countries.

The previous Uzbek president, Islam Karimov, was opposed to joining the EEU. He died in 2016.

"They say they're creating only an economic market and that in no way will they reject sovereignty and independence. Tell me, can political independence truly exist without economic independence?" Karimov said in 2014.

In 2012, Uzbekistan exited the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), the Kremlin-dominated military alliance that includes Tajikistan and the EEU countries.

Yuliy Yusupov, an Uzbek economist, analysed the advantages and disadvantages of joining the EEU and published an op-ed in October on the Fergana news site titled "The Club of Hostages of Russian Policy."

Joining the EEU will further impede Uzbekistan's campaign, now more than 20 years old, to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), he said. The two organisations have different standards and aspirations.

During a visit to the United States in May 2018, Mirziyoyev and US President Donald Trump agreed that the United States would support Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO.

The resumption of that process made the news July 24, when, for the first time in 15 years, Uzbekistan submitted an official application-related document to the WTO.

The WTO secretariat will provide all the help and support needed during this process, Roberto Azevêdo, director general of the WTO, pledged to the Uzbek representative.

'Hostage' of Russian foreign policy

Joining the EEU would make Uzbekistan dependent on Russian policy, Yusupov said.

"Uzbekistan will be forced to enter not only an economic but also a de facto political union with Russia and consequently will be forced to become a hostage of its [Russia's] highly questionable and unpredictable foreign policy, with sharply curtailed abilities to stand up for its own national interests," he said.

Mirziyoyev is also worried that Uzbekistan's hypothetical entry into the EEU would lead to open borders, which would increase imports and potentially damage many Uzbek enterprises, according to Dosym Satpayev of Almaty, director of the Kazakh think-tank Risk Assessment Group.

"Tashkent should bear in mind that if Uzbekistan becomes a member of the EEU, then, like Kazakhstan, the republic will have to constantly repel propaganda from Russia, where you often hear statements that cast doubt on the sovereignty of other EEU members, be it calls to introduce a single currency or create a supra-national parliament," Satpayev noted.

Aziza Umarova, an Uzbek civic leader who works as a political consultant, expressed disappointment about the possible accession to the EEU in a post on her Facebook page.

"There’s no turning back. None at all. There is no calm divorce. Should anything happen, there will be no peaceful disbanding. One country is making all the decisions."

"Joining is a one-way ticket. Hello, 'Soviet Union'. This is the last thing my generation was hoping for," Umarova wrote.

The business community of Central Asian countries is clearly disappointed with its experience in trading with Russia.

This is one of the reasons why Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are in no hurry to join the EEU, according to Nur-Sultan-based entrepreneur Beibit Kebekbayev.

"It will be a one-sided game," Kebekbayev said.

"If Russia succeeds in luring new members into the EEU, it will take over their markets," he said. "In practice, new members' manufacturers will not see new opportunities, and their domestic situation threatens to become catastrophic because of a surge of dumped Russian goods."

[Kanat Altynbayev from Almaty contributed to this report.]

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You are saying that if we will join EEU monopolist companies such as GM and Akfa will die, prices will equalize, maybe that is true in some ways, but. You are also saying that it will get harder for the top and it will get better for the people, maybe that is also quite right in some cases, but we must think of our future and our kids. Let me write my points

If we will join EEU:
Our benefits:

Management will suffer, monopoly will disappear
Democracy will seem to develop, it will be in cases between us, in relation to our conflicts they will use democracy, but when it will come to case with Russian, Russians will prevail
It will seem great for the people at first, but it will be only for short period. There was a dirty political game called Cotton Case, it will repeat again, it will not be cotton exactly, but I am saying for example, but they will strip us all from whatever we have

Our loss
In the future our children will inherit slavery
If we will not join current ignorant people will leave, they will not stay forever, they will be replaced by smart, educated people who care about the nation, they will come by the help of Allah slowly, but surely. We have hope in Allah, don't we? It is not easy for us now, but monopolists and officials that care about people will come as assistants to our president, president that care about the nation came to power, who says that such officials will not come to power? No one. Let us correct ourselves, everything will be great pace by pace. Let us think broadly. If we will join slavery will remain.
If we will not join, then we will save our freedom, we have already adapted to the hardships, these days shall pass, too. We have to be patient, better days shall come, Inshallah.

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Countless thanks to Allah. Countless thanks to Lord the Creator, Lord of all Worlds for not allowing to join descendants of killers of our ancestors, for not letting us join a Dragon like country, blood thursty Russia.

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Uzbek businessmen will not like this news, because there is not enough capacity for competition. Besides about 4 million Uzbek are working in Russia, it is good if money they are spending for documents will come to Uzbekistan. Maybe then there would be competition in labour market of Uzbekistan? If borders will open people who know their profession well wouldn't settle to Uzbek salaries and maybe they would offer good pay for skilled workers.

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Now you are revealing your true colors and now we know that you are working for America, you hate the fact that we can join and talking only about the bad sides.

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[They would] have to stop embezzling, but how could they survive without it? That's their concern, not the life of the people leaving the country behind.

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Do you say that joining the EEU will help prevent embezzlement? And how about joining a union with a state where theft and corruption are through the roof, starting with the highest levels?

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It will be good for the people! The EEU. And it'll be freaking bad for the monopolists. Because they won't be able to seize everything and dictate their rules anymore. I'm sure everyone who's against joining [the Union] has common interests with our monopolists. And our economy is Krafers, Artel, Imzo, GM, etc.

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The late first president was against joining the Customs Union for a reason

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It is bad to obey to somebody, but partnership is good, it is good when everything is done equally

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Then Russia will start inundating our market with its low quality merchandise no one buys in the whole world.

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As if now merchandise in Uzbekistan is perfectly high quality. Everything is made in China or out of Chinese parts put together in Uzbekistan. You need to think before you write anything.

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This article represents the interests of Artel, Akfa, GM, Chevrolet or Ravon and many other monopolists including the Americans. The general public needs the EAEU instead. Let our monopolists try the competition.

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I think it would be good if country will join it, people will get rid of monopolists and prices will drastically balance. In short everything will become cheaper. In Russia wages a big and prices low, salary is enough for food and for travelling.

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So, being with Russia is bad but kissing American ass is super cool. America will bring ISIL upon us and then deploy troops for "protection." And we will end up having American law and order like in Libya, Iraq, Syria and other countries. Failure and ruins are EVERYWHERE America sets its foot in. They don't need us. They are trying to besiege Russia and oust all the leaders they find undesirable.

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You are right my friend, all of the media is working for Americans, they do not want Uzbekistan to join and reporting only bad sides, now we know who they are

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This Taiga union is only beneficial for Russia. It is plundering member countries yet again just like the USSR did ["taiga" is thousands of miles of dense forests in Siberia]

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Moscow basically funded the participating countries [republics] in the Soviet times

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They got scraps and paid for it!

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Why did Kazakhstan join [the EEU] not thinking it over? Uzbekistan is doing good keeping in mind potential threats to its economic and political security!

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They think of what to do next. Sinecures will close if they join [the EEU]. They won't be able to steal anymore.

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