Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia
Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan
12,432,307 sq mi
|GDP (PPP)||2012 IMF estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 IMF estimate|
The Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia came into existence on 1 January 2010 between the states of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. 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.
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.
Citizens of the member states of the union may travel to other member states with just a internal passport, without an international passport. Although presently Russia allows citizens of other CIS states to visit without a passport as well, it is expected that after 2015 only citizens of the Customs Union will have this privilege.
Armenia is trying to achieve trade deals with both the European Union (EU) and with the Customs Union. On 11 September 2012 Armenia ratified the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) free trade zone agreement, and is trying to sign an Association Agreement with the EU. Chairman of the Russian Federation Council Valentina Matviyenko stated in December 2012 that Armenian membership in both the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community was a possibility, though Armenia was also considering participating in other European bodies. Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan stated in December 2012 that EU, CIS and Eurasian integration need not be mutually exclusive. Shortly after a meeting in December 2012 between Sargsyan and the President of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Viktor Khristenko, in which the potential structure of Armenia's integration with the Customs Union was discussed, Maja Kocijancic, a spokeswoman for Catherine Ashton, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, warned 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." Armenia does not have a land connection to either the European Union or to the Customs Union. On 3 September 2013, Armenia announced their decision to join the EurAsEC Customs Union. 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." President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan stated at the 2 October 2013 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe session that Armenia was ready to sign a deal with the EU during the November 2013 Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius, 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. As of December 2013, negotiations on Armenia's accession to the EurAsEC Customs Union are ongoing.
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 presence in Armenia.
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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. Kyrgyzstan is likely to join the Customs Union by the end of 2013
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.
Tajikistan plans to join into the Customs Union (since September 2012), but due to its lack of a common border with any current member state must wait until neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, which borders current member state Kazakhstan, is granted membership.
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has 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".
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.
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Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang stated in July 2012 that Vietnam may join the Customs Union: "if there is a political will from our country’s authorities, as well as Belarusian and Kazakh partners, we will soon be able to start this process". The Customs Union completed a free trade agreement (FTA) feasibility study for Vietnam in November 2012 and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated in November 2012 that negotiations over the FTA will begin in early 2013. Vietnamese officials estimated in September 2012 that negotiations could take two years. Trade between Vietnam and the Customs Union in 2011 was 2.24 billion USD.
Like Tajikistan and Armenia, Vietnam does not share a land border with a current Customs Union member state (although, unlike the first ones, Vietnam can be reached by sea from Russia, without passing through any other country).
Beginning in 2012, the Eurasian Development Bank 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
- Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan Agree on Customs Union Saturday, 5 December 2009
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- Failed reset?: United States decries “sovietization” of former USSR states
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- "Customs Union Technical Regulations".
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- 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)
- Armenia profile, BBC News
Azerbaijan profile , BBC News
- "Interview: Georgian PM Still Aiming For EU, But Doesn't Rule Out Eurasian Union". Rferl.org. 9 September 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013.
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- "Tajikistan Expresses Readiness to Become Customs Union Member". The Gazette of Central Asia (Satrapia). 27 September 2012.
- Ukraine may join Customs Union – Yanukovich 26 November 2010
- Yanukovych:Ukraine's Constitution does not allow entry into Customs Union, Kyiv Post (21 March 2012)
- Ukraine will join neither NATO nor Customs Union with Russia, Yanukovych assures, Z I K (13 April 2010)
- EU gives green light to initialing Association Agreement with Ukraine on March 30, Kyiv Post (21 March 2012)
- Yanukovych Drives Ukraine Toward EU as Russian Natural Gas Agreement Looms, Bloomberg L.P. (25 May 2011)
- Azarov: Ukraine could cooperate with Customs Union and EU, Kyiv Post (17 December 2012)
- Ukraine leader cautious on Russian customs union plans, BBC News (4 January 2013)
- Yanukovych hopes to sign Association Agreement with EU in 2013, Kyiv Post (4 January 2012)
- After the parliamentary elections in Ukraine: a tough victory for the Party of Regions, Centre for Eastern Studies (7 November 2012)
- Yatseniuk:Prosecution of Tymoshenko, Lutsenko hinders Ukraine-EU integration, Kyiv Post (4 December 2012)
- Symonenko:Communist Party had no agreements to support Azarov's candidacy for premiership, Kyiv Post (28 December 2012)
- Poll: Almost half of Ukrainians back Ukraine's accession to EU, Kyiv Post (10 January 2012)
- 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)
- Ukraine's jailed Tymoshenko calls off hunger strike, Kyiv Post (16 November 2012)
- EU leaders:Ratification of Association Agreement and DCFTA depends on settlement of Tymoshenko-Lutsenko issue, Kyiv Post (20 July 2012)
- Ukraine's Lutsenko jailed for 4 years (updated), Kyiv Post (27 February 2012)
- Rybak: Ukraine's accession to Customs Union not under consideration, Kyiv Post (7 March 2013)
- Ukraine sees success in talks on gaining observer status in Customs Union – foreign minister, Interfax-Ukraine (22 May 2013)
- Cabinet approves draft memorandum with Customs Union on assigning Ukraine observer status, says Azarov, Interfax-Ukraine (22 May 2013)
- Ukraine to be observer in Russia-led trade bloc, Reuters (31 May 2013)
- Azarov: Very favorable terms were offered to Ukraine for accession to Customs Union, Interfax-Ukraine (7 June 2013)
- Vietnam Considers Joining Customs Union
- Vietnam to start FTA talks with Customs Union in 2013
- Vietnam to set up free trade area with Customs Union countries
- Vietnam and Customs Union eye stronger trade ties
- "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.
- "Интеграционный барометр ЕАБР 2013". Центр интеграционных исследований Евразийского банка развития. 13 September 2013. Retrieved 2 December 2013-12-02.
- Official website (Russian)