Eurasian Customs Union
Eurasian Customs Union
12,432,307 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2013 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2013 estimate|
The Eurasian Customs Union or the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, came into existence on 1 January 2010. The Customs Union was launched as a first step towards forming a broader European Union-type economic alliance of former Soviet states. The member states are planning to continue with economic integration and were set to remove all customs borders between each other after July 2011. On 19 November 2011, the member states put together a joint commission on fostering closer economic ties, planning to create a Eurasian Union by 2015. Since 1 January 2012, the three states are a single economic space called Common Economic Space to promote further economic integration. The Eurasian Economic Commission is the regulatory agency for the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community.
The creation of the Eurasian Customs Union was guaranteed by 3 different treaties signed in 1995, 1999 and 2007. The first treaty in 1995 guaranteeing its creation, the second in 1999 guaranteeing its formation, and the third in 2007 announced the establishment of a common customs territory and a the formation of the customs union.
Access of products to the single territory of the Customs Union is granted after products have proved to be compliant with the requirements of Customs Union Technical Regulations which are applicable to the product. As of December 2012, 31 Customs Union Technical Regulations have been developed covering different types of products, some of which have already come into force, while others will come into force in the period 2012 – 2015. Some Technical Regulations are being still developed.
Before Technical Regulations come into force, the following approvals are the basis for access to the Customs Union Member Countries:
- National approvals/certificates – they are good for access of product to the country where this approval/certificate has been issued.
- Customs Union Certificates/Approvals issued in accordance with the “List of products subject to mandatory conformity approval in the Customs Union” – such Certificate/Approval is valid in all the three Member Countries of the Customs Union.
In December 2012, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan stated that EU, CIS and Eurasian integration need not be mutually exclusive. Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton, responded that "if Armenia were to join any customs union, this would not be compatible with concluding a bilateral Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Armenia. Because a customs union has a common external trade policy and an individual member country no longer has sovereign control over its external trade policies."
Although Armenia completed its negotiations with the European Union (EU) about signing Association Agreement in July 2013, on 3 September 2013, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan announced in Moscow that Armenia will join the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. A Russian government communique stated that, "Armenia [has] decided to join the Customs Union and take the necessary practical steps to subsequently participate in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union." This decision was widely described as a "U-turn" by the Western media. On 2 October 2013, Sargsyan stated at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session that Armenia was ready to sign a deal with the EU during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013, without the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area component of the agreement that contradicts Armenia's membership in the EurAsEC Customs Union. This proposal was rejected by the EU and no deal was signed between Armenia and the EU at the Summit.
Although Armenia’s trade with EU states far exceeds that with EurAsEC Customs Union members Russia, Belarus and Kazakstan combined, Armenia is dependent on Russia for security. Armenia's alliance with Russia is seen by Armenia as a counterbalance to Azerbaijan’s sharp hike in military spending (Azerbaijan bought tanks, artillery cannons and rocket launchers worth billions of US dollars from Russia in 2011, 2012 and 2013). This is seen by Armenia as a threat given that the Nagorno-Karabakh War (an armed conflict that took place from 1991 to May 1994 de-facto between Armenia and Azerbaijan) remains unresolved. Russia also has a military base in Armenia.
According to a poll conducted by Gallup International Association in October 2013, 64% of Armenians are in favor of Armenia's membership to the union. Of the six factions in the Armenian National Assembly, five have stated their support or their lack of opposition to the Armenian government's decision to join the union. Levon Ter-Petrosyan, Armenia's First President and the leader of the opposition Armenian National Congress, stated during a rally on 1 March 2014 that the decision is irreversible.
Among the most notable opponents of Armenia's membership to the union are the four former foreign affairs ministers: Raffi Hovannisian (1991-92), Vahan Papazyan (1993-96), Alexander Arzoumanian (1996-98) and Vartan Oskanian (1998-2008). Hovannisian, who officially came second in the 2013 presidential election, stated that Armenia's accession to the union "limits its sovereignty." Hovannisian's Heritage party is the only political party in the National Assembly that has stated its opposition. Other significant politicians who have stated their opposition include Former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan and Soviet dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan.
Kyrgyzstan has stated its desire to join the Customs Union. In October 2011, the acting prime minister of Kyrgyzstan announced that his country will join the union, and that the process had been agreed to with the prime ministers of the other member states.
On 2 February 2014, the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia in Moldova held two referendums on European integration. In one, 98.4% voted in favour joining the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, while in the second 97.2% opposed further integration with the EU. 98.9% also supported the proposition that Gagauzia could declare independence if Moldova unified with Romania. There is concern in Gagauzia that Moldova's integration with the EU could lead such a unification with EU member Romania, which is unpopular in the autonomous region.
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych had stated (in November 2010 and in March 2012) that Ukraine may join the Customs Union in the future, but that the Constitution of Ukraine does not presently allow them to join. However, he has also stated (in April 2010) that Ukraine will not join the Customs Union. Ukraine's potential Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU) is seen by the EU as being incompatible with Ukraine entering the customs union with Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus; the latter would end the chances for the AA according to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. Yanukovych wants to pursue EU membership for Ukraine. In May 2011, Yanukovych stated that Ukraine is "searching for mechanisms of cooperation that will allow us to work with the customs union to the extent which Ukrainian laws and our obligations to world organizations such as the World Trade Organization allow”. Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stated in December 2012 that Ukraine could and should cooperate with both the Customs Union and the European Union at the same time. In January 2013, President Yanukovych stated that he had cancelled a visit to Moscow in December 2012 because his country was not yet ready to join the Customs Union. He further stated that Ukraine was trying to meet the legal requirements of the customs union without harming other international accords and that "experts from both sides [Ukraine and Russia] are currently working on this issue". However, he did not commit Ukraine to joining the union. He also expressed hope that the AA with the EU would be signed in 2013.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of Batkivshchyna, Ukraine's second largest party, is against Ukraine joining the Customs Union. He stated in December 2012 that "Ukraine's joining the Customs Union means the restoration of the Soviet Union in a slightly different form and with a different name. But this means that the country will become a part of the Russian Empire. We know history. We have been there and we don't want to return there".
Communist Party of Ukraine leader Petro Symonenko stated on 28 December 2012 that should Prime Minister Azarov fail to fulfill the promise of Ukraine's joining the Customs Union, his party would force his resignation.
On 25 February 2013 President of the European Commission Barroso made it again clear "One country cannot at the same time be a member of a customs union and be in a deep common free-trade area with the European Union". At the time President Yanukovych was in negotiations with Russia to "find the right model" for cooperation with the Customs Union, while he was simultaneously trying to get Ukraine's agreements with the EU on free trade and political association signed by the EU. Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) Volodymyr Rybak stated on 7 March 2013 "The Customs Union issue is not being discussed".
- Observer status
Negotiations on granting Ukraine observer status in the Customs Union took place in April/May 2013. This status would give Ukraine the right to attend meetings, join the preparation of documents but excludes the right to vote. An association agreement to grant Ukraine an "observer" status was signed on 31 May 2013 in Minsk. Ukraine's status as an observer state is said to not conflict with its planned free trade agreement with the European Union. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stated on 7 June 2013 that "very favorable terms", including "a sharp reduction in gas price and the cancellation of crude oil export duties", had been offered to Ukraine for its accession to the Customs Union, but stressed that its membership of the World Trade Organization, and associated agreements, prevented Ukraine from joining the Customs Union.
Beginning in 2012, the Eurasian Development Bank (established by Russian and Kazakhstan) conducts regular opinion polling of selected states with regards to Eurasian integration projects. The following question was asked to the residents of the selected countries, translated from Russian to their native language:
- "Беларусь, Казахстан и Россия объединились в Таможенный союз, который освободил торговлю между тремя странами от пошлин, и создали Единое экономическое пространство (по сути - единый рынок трех стран). Как Вы относитесь к этому решению?"
- Unofficial English translation: "Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia united in a Customs Union, which removed tariffs from their mutual trade, and created a Common Economic Space (essentially - a common market of the three countries). How do you feel about this decision?"
Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are current members of the Customs Union. Georgia is a CIS non-member state which participated in polling. Turkmenistan opted out of polling in 2012, but participated in 2013.
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- Commonwealth of Independent States
- Union State
- Eurasian Economic Community
- Collective Security Treaty Organization
- Shanghai Cooperation Organisation
- Eurasian Union
- Soviet Union
- European Union
- Free trade areas in Europe
- European Union Customs Union
- Trade bloc
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- Failed reset?: United States decries “sovietization” of former USSR states
- Official website (Russian)