Eurasian Economic Integration ‘Will Continue,’ Nazarbayev Says

Rector of Moscow State University Viktor Sadovnichiy (left) welcomes President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the university for the March 1994 speech that became famous because of the introduction of an idea of a Eurasian Union.

Rector of Moscow State University Viktor Sadovnichiy (left) welcomes President Nursultan Nazarbayev to the university for the March 1994 speech that became famous because of the introduction of an idea of a Eurasian Union.

THE HAGUE – Kazakhstan will continue to pursue greater Eurasian economic integration with Russia and Belarus, as it sees integration as beneficial to its economy, while at the same time it will firmly guard its political sovereignty.

That was the message delivered by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a March 25 briefing for Kazakh journalists in The Hague during the Nuclear Security Summit that took place March 24-25.

“Integration allows removing trade barriers and increasing competitiveness,” President Nazarbayev said, answering a question about the future of Eurasian economic integration in light of the current political situation. “So we have here a purely pragmatic interest – to develop the country, boost the economy and increase the gross domestic product.

“As for our political independence, it is a constant, and Kazakhstan will cede sovereignty to no one,” the Kazakh leader noted during the briefing at The Hague’s picturesque Kurhouse Hotel. “But we will voluntarily transfer some economic powers to supranational authorities, as is done, for example, in the European Union where the European Commission makes decisions relating to customs, regulates trade, tariffs, transportation of oil and gas, electricity, railways and highways.”

“All issues in our future [Eurasian Economic] union will be resolved by consensus. Final decisions will be made with the consent of all three states [of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia],” he said. “Therefore, there should be no concerns as this process is beneficial to all participants, and, in times of crisis, even more so. The integration process will continue as it is also a matter of strengthening our independence.”

Negotiations over a treaty to establish the Eurasian Economic Union by Jan. 1, 2015 have intensified in recent weeks and months as the May 1, 2014 deadline for submitting a treaty for signature to the three heads of state draws near. Increased international attention has also been drawn by the political crisis in Ukraine, Crimea’s accession to Russia and the ensuing diplomatic wrangling between Moscow and the West.

The idea of some sort of integration in Eurasia in new circumstances was first proposed by President Nazarbayev 20 years ago.

In a speech at Lomonosov Moscow State University on March 29, 1994, President Nazarbayev said: “How do I see the future of that space that used to be one country? Nowadays, in the conditions of sovereignty, recognising equal rights of all, respecting the sovereignty and independence of each state, we could create a completely new unity. I would call it the Eurasian Union.

“The basic principle is ensuring equality and respect for the sovereignty and independence of the states, for individual rights and the identity of each state. Only those states which recognise these principles should be accepted into the Eurasian Union. We would work on the basis of bilateral agreements with those which do not accept or are not yet ready to observe these principles. Naturally, for member states of such a union, special conditions will be created,” President Nazarbayev said then.

In the few years immediately following President Nazarbayev’s suggestion, the idea of closer Eurasian integration did not find traction. The situation began to change in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the creation of the Eurasian Economic Community, which brought together Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan.

Later, in 2010, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia opted for deeper integration when they set up the Customs Union, removing internal customs borders. In 2013, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan announced intentions to join the Customs Union and their preparations for accession are moving along.

Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia are now negotiating the treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Business leaders in all three countries have also been involved with drafting the treaty to help ensure their interests are protected.

Negotiators expect to present a draft treaty on EEU to the leaders of the three countries in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the end of April.