It seems that the apparatchiks who run the Kremlin-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) have not abandoned hopes of one day integrating Ukraine into the organization.
Tatiana Valovaya, one of the nine members of the EEU’s Commission, the group’s executive arm, was the featured speaker at a recent event hosted by Columbia University’s Harriman Institute in New York. She insisted that there was room for Ukraine to pursue trade partnerships with both the European Union and the EEU. Ukraine could pursue a middle path by following a hodgepodge of practices and regulations, Valovaya added.
“We do not believe there should be a single set of rules in the country, but lots of common rules,” she said.
Valovaya dismissed concerns about the compatibility of EU and EEU requirements, noting that 80 percent of the EEU’s technical regulations were based on EU documents. She did not provide any additional insight on how a mixed system could be coordinated among Ukrainian, EEU, and EU officials.
The EEU, which comprises Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia, has had a tough start since its establishment in January. Sanctions and sagging oil prices have crippled the economy of Russia, its largest member.
Despite these challenges, the EEU has received more than 30 requests from countries wanting to explore free trade agreements with the organization, Valovaya said. A free trade treaty with Vietnam is expected to be signed in the spring, and joint research groups have been formed with Israel, India, and Egypt to explore possibilities. Meanwhile, negotiations with New Zealand are stalled due to “political tensions.”
Valovaya acknowledged that 2015 would be a difficult year for the EEU, but she expressed optimism that the organization would thrive. “The EEU is an economic community for bad weather,” she said.
Editor's Note: Andrew Lohsen is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.