Integration without insinuations: Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister says Eurasian Economic Union to become “an international organisation of regional economic integration”

OrdabayevOn May 29, 2014 in Astana the presidentsof Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia will sign a Treaty on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union.

Thus, the idea of the Kazakh leader on the formation of a fundamentally new association of the 21stcentury, which works on the principles of equality, mutual benefit and taking into account interests of all participants, will get its logical conclusion. The purpose of the idea is simple and rational: the addition of potentials for rapid modernisation and competitiveness of the economy, improving the welfare of citizens of the three countries.

Nevertheless, there are still some concerns and fearsabout the Union in the different layers of Kazakh society. The are important questions that need to be addressedincluding how it will affect Kazakhstan, whetherit will infringe on any of the country’ssovereignty and independence, what the country will lose and what it will gain?

The Vremya (Time) newspaper interviewed Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan Samat Ordabayev and asked some of the most popular questions. Here’s the translation of that interview

Is the Eurasian Economic Union going to be a political union?

I want to emphasise that during the negotiation process we have consistently advocated a position of the inadmissibility of the politicisation of this integration association and of discussing within it matters affecting national jurisdiction and sovereignty. Thus, Article 1 of the draft Union Treaty “Establishment of the EEU. Legal Personality” contains a clear definition of the Union as “an international organisation of regional economic integration.”

Our partners from Russia and Belarus at the initial stage of the negotiations rather insistently proposed to include in the draft Treaty questions of parliamentary cooperation, common nationality, holding a common foreign policy, state border crossing, illegal migration and many other issues not directly related to the economy. All of the above, at our insistence, has been excluded from the Treaty, primarily because they are all resolved by multilateral agreements within the CIS and CSTO and in the framework of bilateral agreements between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. And in this regard we have clearly relied on the tasks before us set by the President of Kazakhstan that “political sovereignty in our integration association is immutable, and this is an axiom … Economic integration strengthens national statehood, to make it more sustainable through the development of the economy.”

Do you not think that with the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union it will actually be a return to the Soviet Union and Kazakhstan will become subordinate to Russia?

This is not so. In particular, Article 3 laid such basic principles of the Union as respect for the universally recognised principles of international law, including the principles of sovereign equality of member states of the Union and their territorial integrity, respect for the political systems of the member states of the Union, providing mutually beneficial cooperation, equality and taking into account national interests of the parties. As one of the most effective system of checks and balances, it is laid out a consensus mechanism on taking strategically significant decisions at all levels in the new union, which excludes, among other measures, any possibility of dominance of any state.

It is believed that the establishment of the EEU can seriously affect the development of the state language in the Republic of Kazakhstan. What is your opinion?

The EEU working language is Russian. But I would like to draw attention to the fact that Article 26 of the draft Treaty provides for the signing of the EEU Treaty and all other international treaties of the Union in the state languages of the parties. In addition, all decisions of the Union which are binding will be translated. And for this purpose appropriate means will be provided in the budget of the Union. At the same time I would like to note that this provision was included by Kazakh negotiators and was supported by other members of the future Union. There is also a provision that this Treaty, as well as other international treaties, will necessarily be placed on the website of the Union in the state languages of the parties.

There are also pronounced fears that Kazakhstan’s rights could be infringed during the decision-making process within the integration associations of the Customs Union (CU) and the Common Economic Space (CES) and the future EEU. What does Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs think?

I’ve already partially answered this question before. I would like to add something. I think the big concern is related to the mechanism of decision-making within the Collegium of the Commission. Here we laid down the following mechanism: decision-making by consensus and by a qualified majority. The board makes decisions by consensus on the most sensitive issues listed by the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (heads of state).

For the remainder, a qualified majority will be used.

Moreover, any issue that is taken by Collegiums can be blocked by the Commission’s Council at the level of deputy heads of government, where decisions are made by consensus. But even these decisions of the Commission, in case of discrepancy with the interests of individual states, may be reviewed at the Supreme and the Intergovernmental Council. And, as a last resort, any issue can be challenged in the Court of the Union which is being created. This design, as you can see, allows preserving the interests of the parties in making any decision.

Another issue is the representation of Kazakhstan in the organs of the Union and the fear that it will not be done at the proper level.

If we talk about the Commission, it consists of two levels, the Council and the Board of the Commission. The Council shall be represented by three supervising deputy prime ministers of the parties. And the Collegium is composed of three representatives from each of the “troika”. The same goes for the Court of the Union where two judges are appointed by each of the states. With regard to structural units of both the Commission and the Court of the Union, the Treaty stipulates that the offices of directors and deputy directors will take representatives of the parties subject to compliance with the principle of equal representation (parity). Other employees will be selected and appointed by the parties in proportion to the equity funding of these bodies.

It is believed that the draft EEU Treaty did not pass through due deliberation in the business community.

This statement is not entirely true. The draft Treaty on the Union with all applications was posted on the official websites of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs (NCE) and the Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning of Kazakhstan in early March of this year. Representatives of the NCE, leading industry and business associations of Kazakhstan have been actively involved in the negotiation process to discuss the provisions of the draft Treaty of EEU, in the meetings of the Commission’s Council at the level of deputy prime ministers, as well as in the meetings of the advisory committees. Their views and specific proposals were often crucial in preparing the Kazakh position.

An important question: do you not think that with the establishment of the Union Kazakhstan would lose its independence in the information sphere (media)?

I want to say in one sentence: the media sphere relates to the sensitive issues from the point of national security view, and is not subject to economic integration and is not ceded to the Union in any form. This was the position of Kazakhstan and, ultimately, it was adopted by our partners.

Finally, it is thought that entering the Union, Kazakhstan will find difficulty in dealing with the outside world. What would you say?

Foreign policy issues are subject to the competence of national states and are not transferred to the format of the Union. There is Article 30 in the Treaty “Relation of this Treaty with other international agreements,” the main premise of which is this: nothing forbids us from concluding international treaties with third countries, their integration associations and international organisations. This is our principle of multi-vector foreign policy and it is not by chance that President Nazarbayev has clearly formulated Kazakhstan’s position in this direction: “As sovereign states, we actively cooperate with various countries and international organizations, without prejudice to mutual interests. The Union should not hinder us in this direction.”

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