Law, Policy and Politics
Edited by Rilka Dragneva and Kataryna Wolczuk
Chapter 11: Commitment, asymmetry and flexibility: making sense of Eurasian economic integration
Eurasian regionalism seems ‘an idea whose time has come’, to paraphrase Katzenstein’s expression on Asia. After several failed or unfulfilled initiatives in the post-Soviet world, the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU) has emerged as a functioning project with important domestic and international implications. This volume set out to examine the ECU integration process, its institutional architecture and key driving forces behind it. The analysis has revealed a complex regional phenomenon where deep economic integration and legalized design have been pursued in response to a precarious balance of motives. While these motives vary across the ECU’s three member states – Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – it is the political and geopolitical demands that prevail. This outcome is unambiguously connected to the nature of their political systems, which can broadly be described as non-democratic. While independently neither of these features is unique, it is their combined role which sets the Eurasian case apart from other integration projects. This chapter ‘unpacks’ the ECU’s characteristics by pointing out the key driving forces behind the countries’ commitment to Eurasian integration, the limits of that commitment and the institutional responses both part of the formal design of integration and the systemic political and socio-legal context – in structuring cooperation. The ECU has emerged and matured within a short period of time in what can be described as a ‘big bang’ development. This approach has been effective in getting the project off the ground and generating momentum; its continued rapid advance and the pronounced ambition driving it are much in evidence.
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