this one does not always work… so how about another Union?

From Andrew Rettman at the EU observer  http://euobserver.com/24/113819  we learn that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is offering an Eurasian Union to its neighbours, countries such as Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazachstan, Turkmenistan and others. See here http://www.izvestia.ru/news/502761  for the op ed article by Putin. He celebrates the coming into force of the Common Economic Space (CES) arrangements between Russia, Belarus and Kazachstan and describes these arrangements as the pinnacle of 20 years post Soviet integration in the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). He explains that the CIS builds on the created Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazachstan and that all of these interconnected integration projects build on understanding that the countries involved share strategic national interests.  In the future, he envisages the establishment of common standards and regulations for products and services, by the way, he adds that these would be in the majority of cases harmonized with the European ones.

Somewhere here I begin to feel that the rosy tints of the picture he paints becomes so intense that I have to wake up from the utopian dream and try to remember what reality looks like. I manage to recall that often, when Russia’s government has been displeased with the foreign or domestic policies of one of the countries in its neighbourhood, it has introduced trade sanctions or gas restrictions, usually based on an existing, but unverifiable rule. Georgian wine and Polish meat imports come to mind. Even when trade relations do not become the victim of Russia’s geopolitical ambitions, commitments within the CIS have had the character of soft rules rather than hard, enforceable obligations (for specific research on this, I recommend my frequent co-author Rilka Dragneva’s very informative and well argued piece “Is “Soft” Beautiful? Another Perspective on Law, Institutions, and Integration in the CIS” in the Review of Central and Eastern European Law journal, 29, 3, 2004). If the CES operates in a similar way, it will be the ultimate example of a la carte free trade zone, which, at first glance, does not really make sense without rule clarity and predictability. The credibility of the common rules will be, in my view, crucial, if business interests are to take them seriously.

A last point worth considering is the fact that Putin’s Izvestya piece mentions the EU several times as an example worth following. Watching the Union’s current inability to deal with the eurozone crisis, one wonders whether the EU has lost some of its aura of a successful project that can be shown as an example of the benefits of regional integration. Apparently not. We would do well to keep this in mind. Imperfect as it is, the EU has survived also because its members have committed themselves in a credible way to common rules. and so far in Europe we have no better way to dealing with globalization than this proven set of rules and institutions…



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