Politics

Kazakhstan rejects Russian proposal to expand EEU co-operation

By Anna Karr

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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin chairs a government meeting in Moscow on January 30, 2020. Kazakhstan recently rejected ideas of the prime minister to expand EEU cooperation beyond economic interests. [Dmitry Astakhov/Sputnik/AFP]

ALMATY -- Kazakhstan has rejected Moscow's most recent efforts to expand co-operation under the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in part because of fears that the union is a means for the Kremlin to strengthen control of its neighbours.

Newly appointed Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin on January 31 announced the Kremlin's proposal to make sports, tourism and the environment strategic areas for the EEU development.

He made his remarks at a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Almaty attended by the prime ministers of Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus.

"Health care, education, science, the environment, sports, and tourism were highlighted by the Russian side in the preparation of strategic documents for the union's development," Mishustin said during his speech.

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A map shows the members of the EEU. [EEU website]

"We will make appropriate proposals and expect support for our initiatives," he said.

A lukewarm response

Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin in an earlier speech, apparently anticipating that Mishustin would propose such an expansion, urged the opposite.

"We must not go beyond ... the Treaty on the EEU and the Declaration on the Further Development of Integration Processes, which the head of state [then-Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev] adopted on December 6, 2018," he said.

"It must be kept in mind that the EEU is a purely economic association," said Mamin.

The Russian leadership is striving in every possible way to force unification through the EEU, said Murat Kastayev of Almaty, general director of DAMU Capital Management, a Kazakh consulting firm.

Various Russian officials have repeatedly proposed strengthening Eurasian integration in finance, currency, trade and foreign policy, he said.

Kazakhstan's position is that the EEU is a purely economic union. However, Moscow sees that integration is slowing and is not finding support from other EEU members in key areas like foreign policy, financial regulation and monetary policy, said Kastayev.

Accordingly, Russia is trying to advance its interests in sports, tourism and the environment, he said.

"Russia is entering a difficult period of political transition," Kastayev said. "A mechanism for preserving [Russian President] Vladimir Putin's power after he completes his presidential term has already begun."

Putin's term ends in 2024.

"Russia is trying to strengthen ties and bind EEU countries closer to itself, so they don't sense weakness and so they behave predictably during the transition," he added.

Moscow has constantly claimed that the EEU is not solely economic, said Dos Koshim of Almaty, chairman of Ult Tagdyry (Fate of the Nation), a Kazakh nationalist group.

"We cannot exclude the possibility that Moscow is thinking about creating a unified internal space for sports, as it was during the Soviet Union," he said.

The recent effort could be part of the Kremlin's response to the World Anti-Doping Agency's barring of Russian teams from the 2020 Summer Olympics, the 2022 World Cup and the 2022 Winter Olympics, he said.

"There were talks about shared airspace defence for EEU members," he said. "Then [Moscow] voiced ideas about the need to create a unified Eurasian parliament. So, what Mishustin said is a continuation of the theme of deeper integration," Koshim said.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has decided to take a new political course, he said. "And part of this course is to listen to the general public and to businesspeople, most of whom were against Kazakhstan's entry into the EEU."

Withdrawal is 'inevitable'

The most populous country in Central Asia already dealt a stinging blow to Russian ambitions of integration through the EEU.

Uzbekistan will not sign on to the EEU, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev announced January 20, noting that the country would try observer status instead of membership.

"We will not be a member of this union," Mirziyoyev said in a speech to the first session of the upper chamber of parliament since elections last December.

"Bear in mind one thing: Nobody will ever give away our independence to anyone. Independence rests in the hands of a president whom the people trust," he said.

Kazakhstan should conduct an independent foreign policy, especially in the light of the Russian Federation's reckless foreign policy, and implement sovereign trade policy, which is currently completely subordinated to the EEU, Kastayev said.

Closer financial integration is unfavourable for Kazakhstan, in light of the creation in 2018 of the Astana International Financial Centre (MFTsA), which could compete directly with the Moscow stock exchange and whose success is disadvantageous for Russia, he added.

"To summarise, the EEU is unviable. Kazakhstan's withdrawal from it will almost inevitably happen," he concluded.

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33 Comment(s)
Comment Policy * Denotes Required Field 1500 characters remaining (1500 max)

I want to ask Kazakh economists why this Union isn't beneficial for the country. There are economists in the country, I hope? [We need] to leave the Union even though the economy has collapsed! Kazakhstan is becoming impoverished in this Union! Dear Mr Mamin, Kazakhstan should abandon this Union; have some respect for your people! You are a pragmatist, aren't you! This Union is not beneficial for us, first of all, from an economic standpoint!

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Fuck you russia!

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Vatniks and their commander bald midget whose name is Rat can go fuck themselves!!!!

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I wrote about an inferiority complex somewhere. You're right; what's the name of that short stature complex?

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No union

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KYRGYZSTAN AND ARMENIA HAVE HAD UNFAVORABLE BALANCE OF TRADE, BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER JOINING THE UNION. IT'S THE SAME MINUS, BUT THERE ARE MANY MORE MINUSES NOW!

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We need to create a UNION of Central Asian states - we are all equal here and have a lot in common

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The Taiga Union [derogatory term for Customs Union] is a dead organization

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The Economic Union and politically intertwined interests in today's international reality, as Anglo-Saxons sow discord around the world, are much more far-sighted and productive than disengaging from Russia! What's wrong is that the current leaders don't even try to HARMONIZE market relations within the Union through a division of labor and cooperation! Some CIS leaders don't bear responsibility for the fate of their populations. What would be even worse is politicla disengagement from Russia, since it would give free rein to foreign powers willing to exploit this newfound weakness; for example, just like Turkey in Transcaucasia or China in Central Asia! Today only unity with Russia, with whom we have been living in for 300 years, is a SHIELD from foreign invasion! This unity is mutually beneficial.

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Nonsense

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What kind of nonsense is that

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It's just funny: enemies are everywhere, but it's as if Russia is a friend

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Anglo-Saxons are happy people; they bring prosperity and well-being. Indeed, (real) democracy is the best achievement of humanity, and Anglo-Saxons have succeeded in it. Whoever tries to prove otherwise is just stupid.

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Only Anglo-Saxons thrive wherever they are ))) Two-thirds of Africa were their colonies, and who is thriving? ))) Please don't mention those midgets Hong Kong and Singapore as examples ))) Kazakhstan is hundreds of times larger than these former British colonies )

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There is poverty wherever Russia is present

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Japan and South Korea on one side, and North Korea on the other. So there is a difference or don't you see it either?

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Kazakhstan is deep in shit thanks to this Union. Thank you, Elbasy. [leader of the nation; the official title of N. Nazarbayev]

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I hope the EEU will disintegrate soon; we don't want to follow any orders from Russia. It's not going to take much more to leave this union.

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[If] you don't want to follow orders from Russia; then you will follow orders from China!

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[Together] with anyone at all, but not with Russia.

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I'm wondering what Russia did to you

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Kazakh shal created this union, and then an alcoholic president mired Kyrgyzstan in it. Now we are reaping the fruits of that. [Shal, or "less than Kazakh", is a disparaging word meaning Kazakhs who don't speak Kazakh and have forgotten their culture and traditions; also those who have only one Kazakh parent]

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Independence. The interests of the people. That's big talk. However, in fact, you act like a handful of separate power brokers. Instead of writing off the debts of savages, Russia needs to care about its people if it aspires to expand its interests. Loads of ambitions, zero differences.

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I agree. Russia should become a successful and thriving country, and attain a high quality of life for its people. Then everybody will be drawn towards it. A union created under pressure and with by the scheming of dictators isn't viable.

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Haha! Putler only thinks about how to hold on to his power. And you, in your drunken haze, will keep hating non-Russians who allegedly steal your jobs.

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Haha ) Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have been coming over there for a long time now by the millions )))

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They are already leaving Russia, [people live in] poverty there after the Crimea ))

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We don't need the EEU. After joining this Taiga Union [derogatory name for unions with Russia], we lost more than we gained.

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We need a plebiscite on leaving this self-defeating union; I demand that a plebiscite be held

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I am for KazExit

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Leaving the EEU should become inevitable. There is no level playing field here. Everything is dictated by Russia. We don't need this kind of union.

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Mirziyoyev didn't say that; he let the Senate ponder on all the pros and cons and decide whether it would be beneficial for the people of Uzbekistan or not...

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Central Asian People need not any economic integrations with Russian, while we are independent countries ,and we are Central Asian like each other .

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