Chapter 2: The development of Eurasian economic integration
It is now over 20 years since the break-up of the first self-proclaimed socialist country, the USSR, and the simultaneous end of the planned economy and communist rule. During these intervening years, 15 independent states have developed and consolidated – three, since May 2004 – as members of the European Union (EU). Almost from the outset, the new states, excluding the three Baltic nations, declared an interest in retaining economic and other links within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). At various times during the 1990s there were moves in the direction of a greater degree of economic integration, but in reality little progress was made. After the year 2000 a momentum built up for integration with real substance. By 2010 a tripartite Customs Union had been formed, soon followed by a project to form a Single Economic Space. This chapter is devoted to an overview of these developments in the direction of Eurasian economic integration (see also Appendix 1), with a focus on actors, decisions and institutions. It will also consider the pre-conditions for successful integration in the territory of the ex-USSR, in particular the Soviet inheritance and the activities over more than 20 years of the CIS as an institutional framework. Examination of this issue is important for gaining an understanding of the specific features of this new endeavour for regional economic integration and the ways in which it differs from similar processes in other parts of the world.
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