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Eurasian integration: Pandemic risks, barriers and benefits for Kyrgyzstan

A regular meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council was held in Cholpon-Ata city. High-ranking officials of the EAEU for the first time met in person after a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Prime Ministers of the countries of the Union discussed the impact of the pandemic on the economy of the EAEU, the existing problems and ways to solve them.

For Kyrgyzstan, the event became an opportunity not only to show its hospitality, but also to strengthen Eurasian and bilateral relations with its neighbors.

Barriers issue once more

The Eurasian Economic Union has been operating for six years. All this time, the parties have been talking about the need to remove existing barriers and obstacles. The issue was also raised at meeting in Cholpon-Ata. Moreover, the Kyrgyz side noted an important point.

Combating climate change can become an instrument of unfair competition.

«Despite the steps taken, we still face obstacles in the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor that are unacceptable for a single economic space. The recent trend towards a decrease in the role of the Commission in identifying obstacles and removing barriers is not in favor of Eurasian integration. I express my hope for the achievement of the Union’s goals for free movement of goods, services, capital and labor resources in the EAEU space,» the head of the Cabinet of Ministers of Kyrgyzstan Ulukbek Maripov said.

He was also supported by the Chairman of the Russian Government, Mikhail Mishustin. He agreed that the five countries need to continue to work actively to remove obstacles to the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor.

More than fifty obstacles have already been removed, 12 of them last year. There is still a lot to be done, of course.

Mikhail Mishustin

By the way, following the meeting, the Prime Ministers of the EAEU approved a list of obstacles to work on their elimination in 2021-2022. It includes 14 obstacles: 13 restrictions and one exemption.

«Formation of the list is a labor intensive but very important process. In fact, today, the heads of government have outlined the most sensitive obstacles to the Union that need to be removed in 2021-2022. Their recording and further work to eliminate them is another significant step in ensuring functioning of the internal market without barriers, exemptions and restrictions,» Gegham Vardanyan, member of the Board (Minister) in charge of Internal Markets, Informatization, Information and Communication Technologies of the Eurasian Economic Commission commented.

It is too early to relax

The coronavirus pandemic continues around the world. The EAEU countries are no exception. Last year, they had to unite in conditions of lockdown and closed borders and promptly resolve pressing issues. The economies of the countries of the Union began to gradually recover. But even this year it is too early to think that the troubles are over.

We must realize that the risks of the pandemic are more longer-term than it was previously assumed.

Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Askar Mamin

He noted that it its latest report the World Bank stressed that two-thirds of developing countries would not be able to offset last year’s decline in per capita income by 2022. These dynamics create additional potential for imbalances in the global economy and heighten risks for a recovery in demand in global markets.

«In this regard, I consider it necessary to update the measures taken within the EAEU in April 2020 to ensure economic stability in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into account the need to support the economies of our states in conditions of increased uncertainty,» Askar Mamin said.

In addition, it is important to think about avoiding problems with the supply of goods in the future. Work is underway to prepare a roadmap for the formation of a common market for organic agricultural products.

«The measures provided for in this document will contribute to the development of the agro-industrial complex of the EAEU. The next stage is to increase the competitiveness of goods in the domestic and foreign markets. In this matter, it is important to prepare insurance support for the export of goods within the EAEU and to the markets of third countries,» Nikol Pashinyan said.

The countries also drew attention to the need to continue work in the field of creation of a unified system of public procurement.

Chances to defend own interests

Political scientist Sheradil Baktygulov believes that the meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council in Cholpon-Ata became an opportunity for Kyrgyzstan to promote its interests. Such meetings make it possible to compare notes at the level of the heads of the executive branch of the EAEU member states and at the highest level to resolve issues of interaction on the widest range of issues of mutual interest to the EAEU member states.

«President of Kyrgyzstan Sadyr Japarov took the opportunity to hold bilateral and multilateral meetings on the sidelines of the meeting. This made it possible to discuss the details of the Kyrgyz-Russian, Kyrgyz-Armenian, Kyrgyz-Belarusian, Kyrgyz-Kazakh and Kyrgyz-Uzbek cooperation on those points that are of interest to the Kyrgyz side and for the country that has its own interests in cooperation with the Kyrgyz Republic,» Sheradil Baktygulov said.

Participation of Uzbekistan in the meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council is a unique opportunity to discuss important issues with the republic.

These are the issues of the country’s security, protection against infectious diseases, facilitation of the transit of transport, free transportation and movement of goods, finance, people within the EAEU.

«It should be noted that the Prime Ministers are actually the first persons of the state in some countries, for example in Armenia. In Russia, the Prime Minister, although he is the fourth person in the state in terms of protocol seniority, is actually the second person in the Federation in terms of influence and scope of activity. The situation is the same in other countries. Therefore, it is very good that such meetings took place and that the leadership of Kyrgyzstan held talks, negotiations, made a statement on the broadest issues. We have our own interests of cooperation with each country, there are established traditions of cooperation, and it was useful to hold such meetings,» the expert says.

Such meetings have an official part, when meetings are held in narrow and expanded formats, and topical issues are discussed.

But there is also a very important informal part, when meetings and negotiations take place on their sidelines.

According to Sheradil Baktygulov, at such informal meetings, issues of strategy and tactics for the development of bilateral and multilateral relations are resolved, agreements are concluded on areas of activity. In the official part of the program, the issues already agreed upon and included on the agenda of the meetings are submitted for consideration, and thus, the combination of such types of work provides the participating country, participating countries and the host country a good opportunity to promote interests.

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