New Observatory on the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)

Within LIBERTAS – European Institute GmbH, there is from beginning of April 2015 an observatory on Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) affairs – ranging from the history of Eurasianism until the most topical developments like e.g. the possible preparations for a common Eurasian currency. It is mainly intended for access out of the European Union and for scientific purposes, but it is open for requests and cooperation throughout the world. The EEU is at present composed of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia (since 1.1.2015); Kyrgyzstan will join on 1.5.2015. The Russian president V. Putin has said he wants the whole former Soviet republics, except the Baltic Republics, to form the Eurasian Economic Union.

This EEU Observatory will start working on an informal basis, and is headed by Ofelya Sargsyan M.A. The Armenia-born political scientist is also Junior Editor of European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ); see http://www.libertas-institut.eu/de/EUFAJ/Ofelya_Sargsyan.pdf. The output will be an archive and database, articles, discourses and lectures, advice and papers for government level, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), conferences, company purposes etc. Any later news will be published on Facebook, on the blog https://libertasblogs.wordpress.com, or on www.eufaj.eu as well as in EUFAJ.

The EEU cannot be compared directly to the European Union, neither with its background, nor with the political system of its member states and the degree of voluntary participation. There is a strong knowledge deficit about it in the EU and other countries. While it is totally legitimate to integrate also economies of CIS countries, there is, however, also sometimes the call for a new ‚empire‘ behind the attempts to set up a Eurasian Economic Union.

The Eurasian Economic Union’s Plans for a Common Currency: Altyn or Euraz?

The Eurasian Economic Union is a Russian-led project. On the way of forming it, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced that from January 1, 2012 the Common Economic Space of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan would be created, which would pave the path for the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. Thus, the Custom Union (CU) of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, launched in 2010[1] was evolved into the Single Economic Space (SES) on January 1, 2012 with Armenia announcing about its interest to join the project on September 3, 2013.

The Eurasian Economic Union was put into force on January 1, 2015. Its purpose can be correlated with Russia’s competitive disposition with the EU, regarding the post-Soviet Union countries. Additionally, the initiative can be Russia’s attempt to counterbalance the EU’s appeal and influence.  Hence, whereas Russia claims that integration is beneficial for all the parties engaged, in reality the picture is not that clear-cut. One of the causes are the political systems and structures of the member states of the Eurasian Economic Union – they are not democratic, disposed to corruption and instrumentalization of law. Another evidence is Russia’s aggressive policy of recent years. Moreover, the country’s superior position in shaping the EEU also comes to prove that the project is actually a simulation of integration. The EEU seems to be driven forwards by forceful integration, which is becoming less and less favorable for the member states except for Russia, per se.

Hence, the EEU’s functioning will mainly be dependent on Russia which seeks to push integration involving more and more spheres from which it can get utmost benefits. Such an opportunity appears to be the introduction of a common currency within the EEU. Thus, while other founding members states of the project have been less supportive to such a plan and have been increasingly imitating integration rather than opting for it[2], on March 10, 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the Central Bank of Russia and the Government „to determine the potential dimensions of the integration in the monetary and financial sectors in the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union with a study of the feasibility of establishing a monetary union in the future.“ Putin’s this instruction is to be worked out together with the central banks of the member states of the EEU by September 1, 2015. And the new currency can appear already in 2016[3].

Among many issues the establishment of a monetary union presupposes introduction of a common currency.  Hence, according to the documents ratified by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in May, 2014 in Kazakhstan, a Eurasian Central Bank and a common currency was supposed to be established by 2025[4]. To the point still in 2014 Rinat Abdullin, the chairman of „Altyn Kara“ Bank, stated: „Personally, I see absolutely nothing wrong with the introduction of a single currency for our three countries. Many of us lived in the Soviet Union, and they remember that there was a single currency such a large area – the ruble, which was accepted everywhere. No matter whether you were going to the Far East, Siberia or Georgia – it was very convenient, because there was a confidence that all prices are formed in a common currency. This situation is much easier for business, as well as for the calculation of ordinary people“[5].

Yet, the Russian president decided to accelerate the process and this at a time when Russia faces a serious economic crisis and the ruble has practiced a severe depreciation[6] as a result of which the amount of mutual settlements among the member states of the EEU in dollars has increased. Moreover, the West speculated to turn off Russia from the interbank payment system SWIFT, yet to make transactions, say from Russia to Kazakhstan, it is necessary to obtain confirmation from the American settlement centers. Obviously enough, the tense foreign policy pushed Putin to rush with the initiative.

In reaction to the initiative, Armenian Central Bank Board member Armenak Darbinian stated, “there is no document among those signed [by Armenia] within the framework of its accession to the EEU that would concern the feasibility study or prospects related to this matter (introduction of the common currency)… There have been no negotiations, no formal discussions in this direction yet. I would say more: the issue of forming a single financial market regulator was discussed within the framework of the EEU and it should happen after 2025. During this time, national laws and regulations should be harmonized and only then the issue can be put on the agenda. It cannot be an administrative decision. This requires relevant developments in the economy and in the financial markets”[7].

Yet Prosperous Armenia Party former MP, economist Vardan Bostanjyan considers it quite feasible that Armenia incorporates a common currency with the EEU. He adds that it will have a favorable impact on the country, saying that “solely by the fact that quite a number of Armenians are in that [EEU] region; the word is about the migrants who are having losses in the case of [currency] exchange rates. But, now, they will not have that”[8].  However, there are also contra opinions. As such Armenian economist Ashot Yeghiazaryan said, “If we switch to the ruble, or another Eurasian currency, and if our Central Bank begins to keep its funds in that currency, discrepancies will arise between the currency loans, and our entire microeconomics will deviate”[9].

It is to be mentioned that the idea of establishing a common currency has not been accepted straightforwardly also in Belarus and Kazakhstan. The director of the Institute of the Global Political Economics of Kazakstan, analyst Akimbekov Sultan said that the instrumentalization of a common currency should not be an issue of a near future. He states that while the idea is interesting there are apparent problems – all the member states have different levels of development. Moreover, Belarus has not yet undergone those market reforms that, say Russia and Kazakhstan went through.

Belarusian columnist from the Belarusian Radio Liberty and political scientist for the „Strategy“ center Valery Karbalevich stated, “And if we are talking whether the Member States of the EEU in general should have a single currency, I do not think that Kazakhstan and Belarus will agree. This would mean that these countries lose their sovereignty”[10]

With all the events, facts and discussions at stake, it is still to be mentioned that it is totally unthinkable that, for example, during the creation of the euro in the years 1990-1999 (Maastricht Treaty to book-money introduction[11]), and this since the Pierre Werner Plan from 1970, one president would have given a commando to „his“ central bank ordering a study on the possible common currency, predicting its effective introduction for the next year, while the order to the central bank has gone out in March of the current year. Observers from European Union sources, asked privately, have the presumption that the Russian president has an „economic psychogram“ being somehow „actively jealous of the EU acquis communautaire“ which he wants to be caught up rapidly, and „while common currencies are to be welcomed in general, any too fast introduction can damage the participating states considerably“, even if the central bank of the integration is not de facto independent.

As for the idea of the Eurasian currency, on the whole, it dates back to 1994 when the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the notion. In 2012 Vladimir Putin endorsed the idea. The Kazakh President has never been suspicious to reset Soviet Union or Soviet Union 2.0., he was however all the time for economic integration, until a certain time in Central Asia[12]. Concerning the currency within the framework of the EEU, it is said to be similar to the Russian ruble. As for the name of the forthcoming common currency two options, are being discussed – Altyn and Euraz. The first name – Altyn, mentioned by Nazarbayev in 2014, meant a three penny coin in Old Russian and the word itself stems from the Golden Horde. The second name – Euraz, is parallel to, or a kind of imitation of the Euro[13].

It is envisaged that the key element in sustaining the new currency will be raw oil exports from Russia and Kazakhstan. Therefore, it has been decided to base the Central Bank of the EEU in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Evidently, the involved EEU governments want to rely more than ever on oil and gas exports, which is diametrically opposed to what also Russian economists preach. The potential market will include about 180 million people, with the total volume of GDP being more than $ 2 trillion.[14]

Yet, it is under a question whether the member states of the EEU, can indeed make the functioning of a common currency a reality. All the currencies of the member states currently face fluctuations and to avoid this in the event of a common currency additional resources will be required. Moreover, the efficient functioning of the EEU per se is also dubious.

Ofelya Sargsyan

Ofelya Sargsyan M.A. (AUA Yerevan), M.A. (Univ. Flensburg) is Junior Editor with European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ) and a Political Analyst with LIBERTAS – European Institute GmbH.

 

[1]Rilka Dragneva & Kataryna Wolczuk, Russia, the Eurasian Customs Union and the EU: Cooperation, Stagnation or Rivalry?, Russia and Eurasia Programme,  Chatham House, Briefing Paper, August 2012, p. 4, http://www.chathamhouse.org/sites/default/files/public/Research/Russia%20and%20Eurasia/0812bp_dragnevawolczuk.pdf.

[2] Aleksandra Jarosiewicz, Ewa Fischer, cooperation: Tomasz Bakunowicz; The Eurasian Economic Union – more political, less economic, Centre for Eastern Studies NUMBER 157,  20.01.2015, p. 1-7

[3]TASS Russian News Agenccy, (Информационное телеграфное агентство России (ИТАР-ТАСС), Putin instructed the Central Bank and the Government to work out the possibilities of creating a monetary union in the EEU (Путин поручил ЦБ и кабмину изучить возможность создания валютного союза в ЕАЭС), March 10, 2015, http://tass.ru/ekonomika/1817884,

Radio Azatutyun, Armenia Not To Attend Meeting Of Trade Bloc Partners, March 18, 2015, http://www.azatutyun.am/content/article/26891807.html

Naviny.by, Putin instructed to work out the possibilities of creating a monetary union in the EEU (Путин поручил проработать вопрос о создания в рамках ЕEU валютного союза); March 18, 2015, http://naviny.by/rubrics/finance/2015/03/10/ic_news_114_455255/

Читать полностью: http://naviny.by/rubrics/finance/2015/03/10/ic_news_114_455255/

[4]Banknoteinfo.net, Eurasian Economic Union plans to adopt common currency unit , August 13, 2014, http://banknoteinfo.net/eurasian-economic-union-plans-adopt-common-currency-unit/

[5]East Time, Introduction of Altyn will Be Useful for a Eurasian Union, Tuesday, May 13, 2014, http://easttime.info/news/kazakhstan/introduction-altyn-will-be-useful-eurasian-union

[6]Pravda-TV.ru, By Putin’s instruction a common currency of the EEU  will be launced  in 2016: Altyn or Euraz? (Единая валюта ЕАЭС по поручению Путина появится в 2016 году: «алтын» или «евраз»?) http://www.pravda-tv.ru/2015/03/10/129883

[7] Asbarez.com, ‘No Plans Yet’ for Armenia to Adopt Single EEU Currency, March 11, 2015, http://asbarez.com/132864/%E2%80%98no-plans-yet%E2%80%99-for-armenia-to-adopt-single-eeu-currency/

[8]News.am, Economist: Armenia will benefit from Eurasian Economic Union single currency, March 13, 2015, http://news.am/eng/news/256734.html

[9]News.am, Armenia economist: EEU single currency is foolish, March 14, 2015, http://news.am/eng/news/257002.html

[10]Mariam Grigoryan, 1am, (The approach to the single currency of the Eurasian Union is ambiguous in Belarus and Kazakhstan) Բելառուսում և Ղազախստանում միասնական արժույթի վերաբերյալ կարծիքը միանշանակ չէ, March 14, 2015, http://www.1in.am/1572943.html

[11] Before the Euro has been introduced as cash currency in 2002, it had been at disposition as book-money, on bank accounts only, since 1999.

[12] Hans-Jürgen Zahorka, Strategy Options for Central Asian Integration –For a Central Asian „Cecchini Report”, EUFAJ 1 / 2010, p. 116,  www.eufaj.eu

[13]Interpolit, Oil altyn against the dollar banknote (Нефтяной алтын против бумажного доллара);  11.03, 2015, http://politobzor.net/show-47317-neftyanoy-altyn-protiv-bumazhnogo-dollara.html

[14] Russian Telegraphic Agency (Русское Телеграфное Агентство), „Instead of the ruble – Altyn. Eurasian Economic Union opts into a new currency (Вместо рубля – алтын. Евразийский союз переходит на новую валюту), March 12, 2015, http://www.riata.ru/ekonomika/item/716-vmesto-rublya-altyn-evrazijskij-soyuz-perekhodit-na-novuyu-valyutu.html

 

Russia and the Eurasian Union: Mission Impossible?

By Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ)
http://www.eufaj.eu

The Russian president Putin may be a political chess player, but he will fail at the very end. He wants to restore glory for his country, and therefore he undertakes a lot:
– blaming the Americans and the Europeans for anything which does not function in his country, including a growing authoritarianism and repression of non-violent opposition, including as well the stigmatisation as „foreign agents“ of any non-governmental organisation which has contacts abroad (and all open-thinking NGOs have them), and following a media policy which is absurd and where critical journalists often have to pay with their lives and health,
– gathering a lot of compliments from most of his compatriots after the conquest of Crimea, and the intended destabilisation of Eastern Ukraine – and in both cases the troops there turned out to be Russian ones, although this has been denied by Putin, who did not say the truth to the world.

This is why Russia is now isolated more than ever. Even China did not veto the trend of a discussion in the UN Security Council on 12.4.2014.

All the efforts by Putin go in this mentioned direction. It is to be crowned by the project of the „Eurasian Union“ which is to see the light of the world in 2015. Since his article in Izvestiya some years ago, it is evident that this Eurasian Union should become a kind of counterpart to the EU. No problem with this; the EU is very much in favour of regional integration in the world. And nobody in the EU or elsewhere would have anything against the Eurasian Union. However, this Project is not about economic or political Integration only. It will never be possible as an integration in the worldwide sense, alone as the EU has been a totally voluntary integration. The same for all other integrations in the world. The Eurasian Union, however, is definitely not: its predecessor and economic centerpiece, the Eurasian Customs Union is going bonkers — even if this is not seen by the protagonists. Consisting of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan (all three beacons of democracy and human rights, as everybody knows), a lot of transborder operations go better with the help of corruption. I don’t want to mention the ranking in the Corruption Perception Index, as everybody also in Russia knows that there is still a lot of corruption in the administration. The customs tariffs are three times as high, on an average, as the import tariffs for new member countries: Armenia has either to raise its customs considerably, or get several hundred of exemptions, which makes a customs union ridiculous. Normally a customs union in economic history has always served to decrease customs, and not to increase! The Armenian government has been squeezed – under which circumstances ever – to welcome this and to tell its people that this would be a success. At the same time, newspapers write at the same page of many possible insolvencies of various sectors and drop-outs, which will lead to a continuation of the Armenian nightmare, the brain-drain by emigration. Every integration – see e.g. the accession of Spain, Portugal, Greece as well as Central and Eastern Europe to the EU – has led so far to a short to medium-term re-integration of former emigrants.

The biggest problem for Russia is her relations with Ukraine. Here every possible Eurasian Union member state can see at first hand, how they can be treated. No chance to hope that this can be changed: Russia has in all Eurasian structures since many years the absolute majority of votes. No way with a qualified majority, which in the EU can easily serve as an instrument of balancing the interests and of creating a compromise.

The result of the Crimea action has been to suspend Russia’s voting rights in the Council of Europe and to be subject of a negative assessment by the UN Assembly.

And nobody will invest at present in Russia, if he is mentally normal (except some big operators who are of strategic interest for Russia): The Moscow government had declared that it might confiscate foreign investmnt. This is against all rules, the rule of law, the rule of any international economy and above all the interests of Russia herself. Every small and medium enterprise will refrain from investing – and this in an era of positive globalization. Only a former KGB chief who never saw a company from inside can ride on such a wave. Russia is also dependent of its raw material and energy sales. The EU, including Germany, as main client are working since a while to diversify their purchases, a step which is getting momentum, and of developing alternative energy.

As the present macroeconomic trends indicate, Russia’s economy goes slowly but safely down, like the ruble currency, thus problemizing all foreign purchases which will be necessary also for domestic investment.

There are some people – like the author of these lines – who remember the hospitality, the fine humour, the philosophical discussions even with non-philosophers, the great nature, the food, the interesting history, the excellent education of Russian people. Their economy could become more and more efficient, corruption could go down, a numerous middle-class could emerge, Russians (all, not some) would go for holidays to the EU and worldwide, and will not flee their country, NGOs could form a vital civil society, art and music could thrive, and all problems could be discussed – why not controversially – and then solved in a free parliamentary vote. And the parliaments are correctly elected, and why not letting all parties admitted for this? Towards the outside, Russia could have excellent relations with its neighbours, with the EU (there are many years homework on what has been proposed and not done, like a free trade agreement etc.), with NATO, just to name some. In such a climate, NATO could become a historical structure – maybe with Russia as a member.

Instead of this, the former KGB chief in the Kremlin does not refrain from lying to the world, from attacking Crimea (at least. until tonight, 14.4.2014), and arresting many people who demonstrate against this in Moscow these days.

It is, simply speaking, ga-ga that at the beginning of the 21st century Russia, while all the others, or most of them, try to cooperate, falls back into the 19th century. If these ideas cannot convince the people (who should not behave like a flock of sheep), they feel a minority complex, manipulate the media and threaten other countries with tanks at their borders. They also are misled by this foreign activity from domestic and grave deficits. With this, the Eurasian Union will never function. It might be launched, but it will be a sick structure from the beginning – like many others who have been launched after 2001 in the former Soviet Union. There are brillant heads e.g. in the Eurasian Development Bank which is a kind of think-tank for regional integration and where many concepts for economic integration have been conceived. But in their concepts you do not read anything about the necessity of a free will of the member states to follow this integration. What their people have, the Russian government has not: sovereignty. The sovereignty to live and to let live. You should take it easy, Vladimir Vladimirowich. If you would, your people would also. But I have lost any hope that this is possible under your reign, although I am an eternal optimist. So drive your country to the beton wall, including following countries. Like the system of the USSR, this „Soviet 2.0“ system, although not under Communist auspices, will be rejected by a majority of People involved when they see the middle and Long-term results – first in the partner countries, then in Russia. By educated, young people who will see how dysfunctional their own system will be, also due to their Facebook and Twitter accounts and the Internet in general. Like the integration of the USSR, of Yugoslavia which both burst in bubbles. The result will always be smaller than the original. Because of this, perhaps for the sake of its own corruption?, the Moscow government will end up similarly, in the most positive way with four or five former and present European CIS countries in or near the EU, and Central Asia may later form a kind of integration themselves. It would, after all, need another and sympathetic leader in Moscow (not only to most of the Russians but also to the world) to break up this isolation and inefficiency.

Kazakhstan – and Free Access to Information …

Recently, at the end of November 2012, I spent a week in Kazakhstan. I wanted to write (something nice) about this country in this very blog, in https://libertasblogs.wordpress.com, from my hotel in Astana, the country’s capital. Despite several attempts, there was no access to the blog. Before the n-th attempt, I had the the idea of a Google search action. „WordPress blog Kazakhstan“ were the keywords.

And what had I to find? Evidently, this blog is blocked in Kazakhstan. Among the many thoughts flashing through my mind in this moment, there was also the memory that last year the country had the presidency of the OSCE.

Kazakhstan is considered a free country in general, taking into account the Soviet system still prevailing 20 years ago, and it has a „wise man“ as President who provided for a clever governance, in general and regarding his immediate influence. Does the country not have the sovereignty to abstain from blocking blogs?

Hans-Jürgen Zahorka
Chief Editor, European Union Foreign Affairs Journal 
 
 
Remark from 22.8.2013:
Since the appearance of this blog contribution, there seems – at least sometimes – to be some movement. Evidently, the Kazakh Government (which had so far repeatedly court sententes to refer to) has allowed the access to WordPress, at least sometimes. We had in the meantime European witnesses who were in the country and who told us they could not access to our blog, but on the other hand we have got several objective signs for access. We do not know exactly what leads to this situation – technical or political reasons.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Putin’s Euro-Asian Initiative and Armenia’s „No“

On the eve of the visit of NATO SG to Armenia

The Euro-Asian Union is an initiative proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, that many perceive as an attempt to revive the Soviet Union – a communist country removed from the world map almost two decades ago. Perhaps that’s in vain… Hardly a person once serving in Soviet KGB could have that much problems with adequate apprehension of the reality – to assume possible the recreation of the Soviet Union or any of its patterns whether in Europe or Asia. It can rather be expected from a KGB officer to use his public acts and steps as a veil for solving pragmatic tasks behind the scene, for achieving “program minimum” in course of stating about “program maximum”.

Battle for Kazakhstan

Independently of the geographical latitudes where the Russian officials state about the Euro-Asian Union, despite the quantity of continents they unite in that virtual union – marking boundaries in air – the core idea and target of Euro-Asian Union is the preservation of Kazakhstan within the orbit of Russian influence.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, once nicknamed “the purple sultan”, remarkably succeeded to lead his country to prosperity and increasing international engagement, turning Kazakhstan into a kind of powerhouse in the Central Asian region. Today one may witness the presence of Western capital and giant companies in Kazakhstan, the advancement of the Russian ground space station and cultural, scientific interrelations there, as well as the broadening influence of Far-Eastern giants’ – with China’s leading progression.

The Western presence in Kazakhstan hardly ever worried Russia much. That presence has little potential to go beyond the financial-economic sphere in the large – both by geographic and civilization affiliations. Kazakhstan lies far away from Europe. Meanwhile the increasing influence of China – involving at once financial-economic, political and migration dimensions – is obviously another opera.

If China’s financial and economic advancement in Africa is sufficient to bother the European Union, then how much worried must get Russia in face of China’s expansion in Central Asia – escorted with migration and political instruments. Such course may once end up with geographical enlargement of China – maybe reflecting in establishment of some kind of commonwealth of the Central Asian states.

The successive transference of Kazakhstan into the zone of China’s influence is still the partial misfortune of Russia. The full misfortune is that Russia is a material empire without spiritual impetus and the peoples inhabiting the Russian Siberia – with their small and large autonomies – glance not only at Moscow. The Chinese influence in Kazakhstan sooner or later will have projection on Russian Siberia.

Life is what we think of it

At some point in future the NATO initiative of a defense shield “from Vancouver to Vladivostok” may factually turn into guarantee of Russia’s territorial integrity. Still what is noticeable for the moment is the repetition of the story. Just alike to the first decade of the new millennium when Russia almost walked out of Europe and the advancing NATO established itself along the Russia’s entire European border, a decade later Russia seemingly gets to depart from the Central Asia and the Far-Eastern giants will further expand their influence along the Russia’s southern border.

Likewise a decade ago Mr. Putin succeeded to award the Russians an imitative sense of powerfulness, thanks to the Chechnya war and the permanent loss of influence in Europe passed relatively unnoticeable for the Russians, now the same scenario is under examination: the initiative of the Euro-Asian Union and the imitative developments around it will allow Russia to fight its interests in Central Asia and in case of failure at least to step back painlessly and imperceptibly for the Russian society. Mr. Putin obviously succeeds to neutralize the essence of events through their staged appearance.

Remarkably realizing the game, Kazakhstan herself erects the main obstacle and complexity on the way of formation of the Euro-Asian Union. President Nazarbayev declared with full clarity that the Euro-Asian Union is a format of economic cooperation only that can’t and doesn’t pursue a goal of political uniting. The formation created in sake of involving Kazakhstan hardly can disregard or oppose Kazakhstan’s stance.

NATO Secretary General’s visit instead of Euro-Asian Union developments

Kazakhstan’s discord to political unification marks almost a fiasco to Russian aspirations of Euro-Asian political union. Here Russia hardly nourishes illusions; now she rather disseminates illusions to achieve some psychological pression and effect in the countries she’d like to get in that union.

Seemingly the last was the aim of Russian propaganda throughout July-August 2012 when primarily several high-ranking Russian political emissaries arrived to Armenia and made statements about the Euro-Asian Union, then on the eve of the Armenian President’s visit to Russia scheduled on 8th August 2012, the Russian mass-media endlessly and persistently reported about Armenia’s principal consent to join the Euro-Asian Union that had to be declared on the meeting of the Armenian and Russian Presidents.

Armenia doesn’t possess a common border with any member of the Euro-Asian Customs Union (Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan), therefore Armenia’s involvement into this customs club – claiming to transform into Euro-Asian Union – would de facto attach political appearance to economic formation, balancing at surface the Kazakhstan’s “no” to the political union.

The visit of the Armenian President to Moscow planned for August 8, surely took place. The Kremlin and the Presidential Palace of Armenia issued press releases, even a joint press conference was held… still as it should be expected despite all the noise raised by mass media the Euro-Asian Union wasn’t even mentioned. Furthermore it didn’t become even clear what was the topic touched at the meeting of Presidents or not.

If the theme was discussed then obviously Armenia hadn’t obeyed to summons and pressure of Russia to join the Euro-Asian Union, like in 2008 when Armenia dismissed the Russian demands to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the Russia-Georgian military confrontation. Then Armenia argued that she hasn’t recognized even the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh – the Armenian enclave separated from Azerbaijan and declared independent some 20 years ago. Now Armenia argues that she doesn’t possess any common border with any country of Euro-Asian Customs Union, intending to transform into Euro-Asian Union.

The arguments are interpretation of reality but they are rather reflection of will. Probably that will was demonstrated by Armenia and thanks to that the noise around Armenia’s possible joining to Mr. Putin’s Euro-Asian initiative calmed down. Moreover still in the beginning of summer there was announcement that Mr. Putin will pay an official visit to Armenia in September. But the September arrived with another news – the Secretary General of NATO is paying visit to Armenia on September 5-6 – some symbolism that speaks for itself.

Lusine Petrosyan*

* Lusine Petrosyan is an Armenian journalist. In 2012 she was nominated for UNESCO Guillermo Cano Prize by Thomson Foundation (UK). The nomination was made to mark the efforts she made in legal confrontation with the former President of Armenia R. Kocharyan, after the President personally filed a lawsuit against her article in 2011. After Lusine’s year long fight engaging the EU, OSCE officials and the Armenian Ombudsman new commentaries on the Armenian defamation law were issued by the country’s Constitutional Court that obliged even the former President to refrain from monetary demands and offer conciliation. In February 2012 Lusine moved into politics and joined the Heritage party.  In June 2012 she became a Board member of the Party, and presently takes the position of the Coordinator of Party Headquarters (Heritage is an oppositional Parliamentary party, one of three Armenian parties having joined the European Peoples‘ Party – EPP).