Chapter 3: The legal and institutional dimensions of the Eurasian Customs Union
The creation of the Customs Union within the Eurasian Economic Community (hereafter ‘Eurasian Customs Union’ or ECU) and the subsequent deepening of the integration agenda have been accompanied by important changes in the legal and institutional framework for structuring cooperation. An improved legal regime has been put in place: one which binds member states, provides for supranational delegation and binding dispute resolution, and incorporates best international norms and practices. Furthermore, the regime claims to operate in transparent ways consistent with Russia’s undertakings on entering the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this sense, the ECU project is presented as a modern, rule-based common regime that is capable of delivering the benefits of advanced forms of economic integration. This claim, which is central to understanding the ECU as a regional integration grouping, is worthy of close scrutiny for a number of reasons. Firstly, in contrast to previous initiatives, the design of the ECU signals a radical and comprehensive move towards legalized integration. Previous initiatives (see Appendix 1) within the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have been consistently described as weak and fragmented, leaving the ordering of relationships to power politics and being unable to facilitate regional trade. The Eurasian Economic Community (EvrAzES) of 2000 was set up as a more robust international organization than the CIS; nonetheless, it failed to change the CIS institutional paradigm. While weakly legalized forms of cooperation are not necessarily without merit, the operation of complex trade and customs regimes requires the predictability, credibility and transparency associated with legality.
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