ALMATY -- Kazakhstan made the right move in rejecting a proposal by Moscow that called for members of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) to more closely co-operate outside the economic bloc, analysts say.
The proposal, known as the Strategic Directions for the Development of Eurasian Economic Integration for 2025, was discussed during the latest meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (SEEC) held over videoconference on May 19, the press office of Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said in a statement on its website. SEEC is the EEU's highest-ranking body.
Tokayev, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka, Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Moldovan President Igor Dodon, and Mikhail Myasnikovich, chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC), attended the online summit.
The EEC is the EEU's regulatory body.
Tokayev urges cautious approach
Tokayev rejected the proposed draft, noting that the document included topics that went beyond economic issues, such as health care, education and science.
"The full inclusion of [such] issues... in the competence of the Eurasian Economic Commission can significantly change its economic orientation; in other words, it will contradict the essence of the 2015 treaty on the establishment of the EEU," he said during the summit, according to his press office.
It is crucial to take into account the specificities of the member countries' legal systems and to be guided by the principle of "necessary sufficiency" when it comes to standardising national laws, he added.
"The proposed 'harmonisation and unification' of legislation... in our opinion, do not yet meet the principle of reasonable sufficiency, and this will lead to rejection of the Strategy by national public opinion, since the Strategy would limit the sovereign rights of governments and parliaments," Tokayev said.
Tokayev also "called for a careful approach to expanding the powers of the EEC".
At the end of the summit, on Tokayev's recommendation, the proposal was not adopted, his press office said.
The next meeting of the EEU members is scheduled to take place later this year in Minsk.
Leverage for Moscow
The Kazakh public, from analysts to everyday citizens, supported Tokayev's statements.
"Russia isn't abandoning its attempts to politicise the union," Urazgali Selteyev, a political analyst from Nur-Sultan, wrote on his Telegram channel.
"It's obvious that the new draft document was drawn up in Russia's political interests. It included clauses that are tantamount to meddling in the policies of the union's member countries," Selteyev said.
Moscow had proposed granting the EEC, the EEU's regulatory body, the right to take part in bilateral talks on economic matters between member states and third countries, said Selteyev.
Moreover, Selteyev said, in reality the EEC is not a supranational body but rather is dominated by Russia, and it serves as a lever for Moscow.
"My ... respect as an expert and as a Kazakh citizen for [Tokayev] has risen. I'm sure that the level of public support and trust for Tokayev is off the charts now," Selteyev wrote on his channel, thus implying that the majority of Kazakhstan's population opposes close integration with the EEU.
"The EEU's future is gloomy. Its functional ceiling is that of a customs union, but even in that format things are barely functioning. It has more barriers and restrictions than supposed advantages gained from economic integration," Selteyev said.
"The superficial deepening of integration is beneficial only for Russia, while Kazakhstan's priority is economic pragmatism," said Selteyev.
Kazakhstan should not have joined the EEU, agreed Janat Momynkulov of Turkistan Province, director of the southern campus of Kazakhstan's Academy of Public Administration.
"It would have been enough just to establish an agreement on close economic co-operation without joining a political and economic union," he said.
Russia gained much more than Kazakhstan from being in the EEU, said Momynkulov.
"I took part in a conference on some EEU issues, and I was astounded by how the Russian representatives conducted themselves. They're overbearing and shameless," said Aijan Jatkanbayeva, a legal scholar and professor at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University in Almaty.
At the beginning of this year, Kazakhstan repudiated a previous attempt by Moscow to expand co-operation within the EEU.
At a January 31 meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council (the second highest-ranking EEU body) in Almaty, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced to his counterparts from member states a proposal from the Kremlin to declare sports, tourism and the environment strategic priorities of the development of the EEU.
However, Kazakh Prime Minister Askar Mamin said that there was no need to overstep the boundaries of the EEU treaty.
"The EEU is a purely economic union," Mamin said at the time.