Eurasian Customs Union

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Eurasian Customs Union
An orthographic projection of the world highlighting Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in green.
Working language Russian
Member states
 -  Total 20,007,860 km2
12,432,307 sq mi
 -  2013 estimate 171,116,970[1]
 -  Density 8.36/km2
13.46/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $2.947 trillion[2]
 -  Per capita $17,411
GDP (nominal) 2013 estimate
 -  Total $2.407 trillion[3]
 -  Per capita $14,221

The Eurasian Customs Union or the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, came into existence on 1 January 2010.[4] The Customs Union was launched as a first step towards forming a broader European Union-type economic alliance of former Soviet states.[5] 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.[6][7] Since 1 January 2012, the three states are a single economic space called Common Economic Space to promote further economic integration.[7][8] The Eurasian Economic Commission is the regulatory agency for the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community.[7]

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.

Market access[edit]

Nominal World GDP and GDP of Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia in 2011.
  European Union: $17.1 trillion (25%)
  United States: $14.8 trillion (22%)
  China: $7.2 trillion (10%)
  Japan: $5.8 trillion (8%)
  Other countries: $22.2 trillion (32%)
  Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan
 and Russia: $2.1 trillion (3%)

Access of products to the single territory of the Customs Union[9] 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[10] 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.
See also: GOST


European Free Trade Association Agreement with EU to mint euros Schengen Area European Economic Area Central European Free Trade Agreement Council of Europe European Union Eurozone European Union Customs Union Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia Switzerland Iceland Liechtenstein Norway Kosovo (UNMIK) Albania Bosnia and Herzegovina Macedonia Montenegro Serbia Moldova GUAM Ukraine Azerbaijan Georgia Kazakhstan Belarus Russia Armenia Vatican City San Marino Monaco Andorra Turkey Croatia Bulgaria United Kingdom Romania Czech Republic Denmark Hungary Lithuania Poland Sweden Cyprus Ireland Austria Belgium Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Italy Luxembourg Latvia Malta Netherlands Portugal Slovakia Slovenia Spain
A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various multinational European organisations and agreements.vde

President of Russia Vladimir Putin has stated that his goal is to enlarge the Customs Union to all Post-Soviet states, excluding the three Baltic EU member states.[11]


In December 2012, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan stated that EU, CIS and Eurasian integration need not be mutually exclusive.[12] 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."[13]

Although Armenia completed its negotiations with the European Union (EU) about signing Association Agreement in July 2013,[14] 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."[11] This decision was widely described as a "U-turn" by the Western media.[15][16] 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.[17][18] This proposal was rejected by the EU and no deal was signed between Armenia and the EU at the Summit.[17][19][20]

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.[18] 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).[18][21] 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.[18] Russia also has a military base in Armenia.[18]


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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24]


Among the most notable opponents of Armenia's membership to the union are the four former foreign affairs ministers: Raffi Hovannisian (1991-92),[25] Vahan Papazyan (1993-96), Alexander Arzoumanian (1996-98) and Vartan Oskanian (1998-2008).[26] Hovannisian, who officially came second in the 2013 presidential election, stated that Armenia's accession to the union "limits its sovereignty."[25] Hovannisian's Heritage party is the only political party in the National Assembly that has stated its opposition.[23] Other significant politicians who have stated their opposition include Former Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan[27] and Soviet dissident Paruyr Hayrikyan.[28]


In September 2013, during an interview, the Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili opened to the possibility that Georgia joins the Customs Union "if it will be advantageous for our country".[29]


Kyrgyzstan has stated its desire to join the Customs Union.[30] 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.[31]


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.[32] 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.[33]


Tajikistan plans to join the Customs Union.[34]


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.[35][36] However, he has also stated (in April 2010) that Ukraine will not join the Customs Union.[37] Ukraine's potential Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU)[38] 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.[39] Yanukovych wants to pursue EU membership for Ukraine.[39] 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”.[39] 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.[40] 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.[41] 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.[41] He also expressed hope that the AA with the EU would be signed in 2013.[42]

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the leader of Batkivshchyna, Ukraine's second largest party, is against Ukraine joining the Customs Union.[43] 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".[44]

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.[45]

In a December 2012 poll by Democratic Initiatives Foundation and Razumkov Center, 32% supported Ukraine's accession to the Customs Union.[46]

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".[47] 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.[47][48][49][50] Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) Volodymyr Rybak stated on 7 March 2013 "The Customs Union issue is not being discussed".[51]

Observer status

Negotiations on granting Ukraine observer status in the Customs Union took place in April/May 2013.[52][53] This status would give Ukraine the right to attend meetings, join the preparation of documents but excludes the right to vote.[54] An association agreement to grant Ukraine an "observer" status was signed on 31 May 2013 in Minsk.[55] Ukraine's status as an observer state is said to not conflict with its planned free trade agreement with the European Union.[55] 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.[56]

Opinion polling[edit]

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?"

The results for the sum of answers "Favorably" and "Very favorably" are below:[57][58]

Country 2012 2013
 Russia 72% 67%
 Belarus 60% 65%
 Kazakhstan 80% 73%
 Armenia 61% 67%
 Azerbaijan 38% 37%
 Kyrgyzstan 67% 72%
 Moldova 65% 54%
 Tajikistan 76% 75%
 Uzbekistan 67% 77%
 Georgia 30% 59%
 Turkmenistan 50%
 Ukraine 57% 50%

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.


United States foreign policy opposes the Customs Union, claiming it as an attempt to "reestablish a Russian-dominated USSR-type union amongst the Post-Soviet states".[59]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Retrieved 27 March 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Retrieved 27 March 2014.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan Agree on Customs Union Saturday, 5 December 2009
  5. ^ Soviet Union to be restored in the form of new customs union, Kyiv Post (18 December 2009)
  6. ^ "Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan sign pact". UPI. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c Ukraine cannot get observer status at Eurasian Econ Union due to Association Agreement with EU, Russia, Interfax-Ukraine (14 June 2013)
  8. ^ Barron, Lisa (1 October 2013). "Belarus eases current account deficit with Customs Union, Common Economic Space". Cistran Finance. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 
  9. ^ "What approval is needed to enter the market of the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia". 
  10. ^ "Customs Union Technical Regulations". 
  11. ^ a b EUobserver: Armenia to join Russia trade bloc, surprises EU
  12. ^ Armenia doesn’t oppose CIS, EU and Customs Union integration processes to each. Armenian Prime Minister
  13. ^ "EU Warns Armenia About Russia Customs Union". Asbarez. 21 December 2012. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  14. ^ "EU and Armenia complete negotiations on the Association Agreement". European Friends of Armenia. 25 July 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  15. ^ "Armenian U-Turn On EU Not As 'Objective' As Thought". RFE/RL. 30 December 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  16. ^ Peter, Laurence (5 September 2013). "Armenia rift over trade deal fuels EU-Russia tension". BBC. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  17. ^ a b President Sargsyan says Armenia to continue cooperation with EU, (2 October 2013)
  18. ^ a b c d e Armenia's Receding European Ambitions, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (18 October 2013)
  19. ^ EU Not Interested in Armenia Deal Ahead of Summit, Asbarez Armenian News (9 October 2013)
  20. ^ "Vilnius Summit: No Agreement initialing due to Armenia’s new international commitments". 29 November 2013. Retrieved 1 December 2013. 
  21. ^ Russia starts delivering $1 billion arms package to Azerbaijan, Reuters (18 June 2013)
    Azerbaijan hikes military spending to $3.7B as tensions persist with neighboring Armenia, Fox News Channel (16 January 2013)
    Azeri-Russian Arms Trade $4 Billion Amid Tension With Armenia, Bloomberg L.P. (13 August 2013)
  22. ^ "64 percent favor Armenia’s entry into Customs Union – survey". 27 November 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  23. ^ a b "ԱԺ նախագահը պատրաստ է Մաքսային միության շուրջ քննարկումներ նախաձեռնել" (in Armenian). Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Armenian Service. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. "Խորհրդարանական ուժերից միայն «Ժառանգությունն» է, որ դեմ է արտահայտվել Հայաստանի՝ Մաքսային միությանն անդամակցելուն:" 
  24. ^ "Ter-Petrosyan’s message: ANC not to challenge Eurasian integration". ArmeniaNow. 3 March 2014. Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  25. ^ a b "Heritage leader Hovannisian slams decision to join Customs Union". PanARMENIAN.Net. 17 September 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  26. ^ Grigoryan, Nelli (13 February 2014). "ՀՀ երեք արտգործնախարարները համակարծիք են` ՄՄ-ում Հայաստանն անելիք չունի [Three Foreign Ministers Agree Armenia Has Nothing To Do In The Customs Union]". Aravot (in Armenian). Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  27. ^ "Արամ Սարգսյանը պայքարելու է մաքսային միության դեմ". (in Armenian). 14 September 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  28. ^ "Paruyr Hayrikyan: Customs Union “threatens,” while European Union “offers”". Public Radio of Armenia. 24 September 2013. Retrieved 30 March 2014. 
  29. ^ "Interview: Georgian PM Still Aiming For EU, But Doesn't Rule Out Eurasian Union". 9 September 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  30. ^ "Кыргызстан может присоединиться к ТС к концу 2013 года. СНГ.". Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  31. ^ "Kyrgyzstan to join customs union — RT Business". Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  32. ^ "Gagauzia Voters Reject Closer EU Ties For Moldova". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 2014-02-03. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  33. ^ "Concerned About EU Integration, Moldova's Gagauz Region Holds Disputed Referendum". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-03-04. 
  34. ^ "Tajikistan Expresses Readiness to Become Customs Union Member". The Gazette of Central Asia (Satrapia). 27 September 2012. 
  35. ^ Ukraine may join Customs Union – Yanukovich 26 November 2010
  36. ^ Yanukovych:Ukraine's Constitution does not allow entry into Customs Union, Kyiv Post (21 March 2012)
  37. ^ Ukraine will join neither NATO nor Customs Union with Russia, Yanukovych assures, Z I K (13 April 2010)
  38. ^ EU gives green light to initialing Association Agreement with Ukraine on March 30, Kyiv Post (21 March 2012)
  39. ^ a b c Yanukovych Drives Ukraine Toward EU as Russian Natural Gas Agreement Looms, Bloomberg L.P. (25 May 2011)
  40. ^ Azarov: Ukraine could cooperate with Customs Union and EU, Kyiv Post (17 December 2012)
  41. ^ a b Ukraine leader cautious on Russian customs union plans, BBC News (4 January 2013)
  42. ^ Yanukovych hopes to sign Association Agreement with EU in 2013, Kyiv Post (4 January 2012)
  43. ^ After the parliamentary elections in Ukraine: a tough victory for the Party of Regions, Centre for Eastern Studies (7 November 2012)
  44. ^ Yatseniuk:Prosecution of Tymoshenko, Lutsenko hinders Ukraine-EU integration, Kyiv Post (4 December 2012)
  45. ^ Symonenko:Communist Party had no agreements to support Azarov's candidacy for premiership, Kyiv Post (28 December 2012)
  46. ^ Poll: Almost half of Ukrainians back Ukraine's accession to EU, Kyiv Post (10 January 2012)
  47. ^ a b EU to Ukraine: Reforms necessary for trade pact, Kyiv Post (25 February 2013)
    Ukraine Faces EU Reform Deadline as Key to Association Pact, Bloomberg Businessweek (25 February 2013)
    Yanukovych happy with results of Ukrainian-EU summit, Kyiv Post (25 February 2013)
  48. ^ Ukraine's jailed Tymoshenko calls off hunger strike, Kyiv Post (16 November 2012)
  49. ^ EU leaders:Ratification of Association Agreement and DCFTA depends on settlement of Tymoshenko-Lutsenko issue, Kyiv Post (20 July 2012)
  50. ^ Ukraine's Lutsenko jailed for 4 years (updated), Kyiv Post (27 February 2012)
  51. ^ Rybak: Ukraine's accession to Customs Union not under consideration, Kyiv Post (7 March 2013)
  52. ^ Ukraine sees success in talks on gaining observer status in Customs Union – foreign minister, Interfax-Ukraine (22 May 2013)
  53. ^ Cabinet approves draft memorandum with Customs Union on assigning Ukraine observer status, says Azarov, Interfax-Ukraine (22 May 2013)
  54. ^ Ukraine will join the Customs Union on observer status, (29 April 2013)
  55. ^ a b Ukraine to be observer in Russia-led trade bloc, Reuters (31 May 2013)
  56. ^ Azarov: Very favorable terms were offered to Ukraine for accession to Customs Union, Interfax-Ukraine (7 June 2013)
  57. ^ "Интеграционный барометр ЕАБР 2012". Центр интеграционных исследований Евразийского банка развития. 13 September 2012. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 13 September 201. 
  58. ^ "Интеграционный барометр ЕАБР 2013". Центр интеграционных исследований Евразийского банка развития. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013-12-02. 
  59. ^ Failed reset?: United States decries “sovietization” of former USSR states

External links[edit]