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The Eurasian Union and the Eastern Partnership

March 20, 2012

Despite isolated reports claiming the meeting was a ‘flop,’ the presidents of a number of East European and Eurasian nations, under the leadership of outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, agreed to establish the so-called ‘Eurasian Union’ by 2015. BBC Russia claims (article in Russian) Belarus’ insistence on having veto power for future Union-level decisions caused formation of the Eurasian Union to be delayed until 2015, but reports from last year indicate that 2015 was the target date all along. The statement Medvedev delivered to the press after the summit gave the impression of a highly productive meeting, and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed the BBC Russia report was “a lie” in an interview with RT, a television network owned by the Russian government.

The brainchild of Vladimir Putin, who will resume presidential duties in Russia in May, the Eurasian Union aims for integration that improves upon the European Union model. In an article that appeared in a major Russian newspaper last year, Putin claimed elements of the EU and other European integration projects would provide the Eurasian Union with examples of policies to implement and to avoid.

Among the summit’s attendees were the presidents of Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia—four countries that are currently members of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership (EaP). Putin has claimed the Eurasian Union would not interfere with any individual nation’s pre-existing relationships with other countries, all of whom (except Belarus) currently wish to join a Eurasian Union only as ‘observing members.’ Yet while the Eurasian Union moves forward, the EaP has done the opposite. EU relations with Ukraine are at a low point due to the prosecution and imprisonment of political opposition figures and Belarusian delegations stopped attending EaP meetings months before the ambassador withdrawal imbroglio. The EU’s adamant anti-authoritarianism—and Russia’s laissez-faire attitude towards other countries’ domestic affairs—makes the Eurasian Union an appealing option for partnership to leaders that are so inclined.

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