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Scramble to Eurasia

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EU & EAEU: competing in Eurasia through regional integration

Eurasia is a galaxy within the universe where the harsh confrontation between States, powers competition but also strategic integration is all reflexes of international relations’ inner dynamics. The case studies of the EAEU and the EU may turn out to be useful to comprehend the systemic logic underlying the complexity of the overall system of international relations in Eurasia.

Moskow, 24th march – In the last decades, World Politics has been characterised by a general trend of birth and progressively growth of international organisations with the aim of harmonising national interests, in place of multilevel conflicts, and boosting cooperation or competition.

Scholars and academics consider the end of WWII, the foundation of both the United Nations and the Security Council, as well as the changing global public opinion, to be the crossroad of a new political era of common governments, shared institutions, multilateralism. Thus, for these purposes, many different organisations have been created until now.

However, it is possible to outline and describe them by observing the original dimensions, the main sphere of competence as well as the legal foundations. As matter of fact, we can divide them into regional and global organisations, sectorial and general organisations, soft law and hard law organisations. Any of these, such as NATO either SCO or BRICS, just to name a few, has been created differently according to the willingness of the founding nations expressed on the treaties’ content and the spirit of the preparatory works.

Some discriminants define this schematic and synthetical diagram and that is to say, in other words, that regional organisations are founded on territorial proximity as well as share of common challenges and perspectives, while world organisations are based on a global scale and the main issues are of global interest; sectorial organisations have competences in an exclusive field (i.e. defence, economics), whereas general organisations are intrinsically multilevel and follow several interests; then, on one hand, soft law organisations are built on soft legal obligations, declared by the founding treaty of membership, which basically both does not compromise the sovereignty of the associated member in its functions and still allows the representation of national interests; on the other hand, hard law organisations automatically require disposal of state sovereignty in association with the achievement of membership status, which is often equal to devolution of power to external institutions.

So, in line with that, the overall comprehension ensues of the way the EU and the EAEU work as supranational systems as well as the consciousness of their nature and respective institutions. Additionally, as inherent differences emerge from this analysis, it is then possible to make a comparison between these examples of international/regional integration from a political, legal, and economic point of view.

EAEU’s characteristics

On the political side, EAEU’s institutional framework resembles that of the EU in several aspects: after many failures in economic governmental integration efforts in the late 90s, i.e., the 1995 Customs Union, the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union came into force in 2015 without lack of implementation projects and with a much better prepared than in the past, on the EU model.

The EAEU counts on different institutional bodies such as: the Eurasian Economic Commission, constituted by a Board with 10 members (two members  for each State) which resembles the European Commission in that is the supranational executive of the Union and, in its functions, which develops and implements EAEU laws and policies; the Council of the Commission, resembling the Council of the EU only for some aspects, is a part of the Сommission and can overturn or amend Board decisions; the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council, comprising the prime ministers of member States, is a body to whom Commission decisions can be referred; Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, composed by the heads of States, is a body similar to the European Council and that not only establishes the overall directions of integrations during the summits, held at least once a year, but also selects Commission Board members; the Court of the Eurasian Economic Union, modelled on the European Court of Justice, ensures that the EAEU Treaty and legislation are properly implemented; Eurasian Development Bank, even though it is not an EAEU institution, is responsible for financing development projects, such as in energy and infrastructures, in the five member States plus Tajikistan.

Up to now, EAEU does not have any common parliament despite some proposals that have been registered made previously. Then, moving on to the main policies of the EAEU, it is necessary to remember: the existence of a Single Internal Market, which encourages freedom of movement and goods, services and capitals within the Union like the EU; the EAEU Macroeconomic Coordination, it has to say the mutual coordination in macroeconomic policies dealing with deficits and public debts; the Internal Market Competition that is regulated by EAEU Economic Commission on the line of the European Commission.

Moreover, EAEU has a common electricity market as well as a common and coordinated policy in agriculture, related to agricultural subsidies and market-support measures.

Road to a European state

On the other hand, the EU is far from being “not an even closer union” like the EAEU: indeed, the EU, as a political and economic union, is founded on a set of institutions that held either monetary sovereignty (ECB) or political/governmental supremacy (European Council and European Parliament, for example), enshrined in the Treaties on European Union, making national institutions and legislations subordinated to those communitarians on legal principle.

The EU itself guarantees a unified system of laws and a single internal market within a general design of gradual impoverishment of national sovereignties and devolution of powers to the European institutions, besides a general geopolitical project of continental political unification. Among the European institutions, it is necessary to mention: the European Council, which brings together the heads of State or government of any EU country and holds the political direction of the EU; the Council of the European Union, which consists of one government minister from any member State and takes part in law-making process within the EU; the European Commission, which is the executive body of the EU; the European Parliament, which is one of the law-making institutions of the EU; the ECB, instead, is the central bank of the 19 European Union countries which have adopted the euro; lastly, the European Court of Justice, which ensures that European law is interpreted and applied properly in each member State.

Distinguishable models (with similarities)

Thus, after summing up all the EAEU-EU institutions, it is notable that the main difference between these models of and regional integration is translated not so much in elements of geopolitical strategies but in terms of institutional frameworks, common qualitative values, distribution of powers and internal balances, the intrinsic value of “sovereignty”. Despite some political debates within the EAEU seemed to think about far beyond a “mainly market union”, EAEU member States still hold an overall level of sovereignty higher than EU members:

So, while the EU is projected for devolving national sovereignties, EAEU is thought for harmonizing State sovereignties.

That is why it is not appropriate to completely compare the EAEU with the EU, even though it is indisputable that the Treaty of the EAEU, signed in 2014, and the following initiatives reflect many influences from the history of European Integration since the creation of ECSC in 1951, the cornerstone of European supra-nationalism and formal integration.

In the same way, it is equally undeniable that there are several similarities as well: firstly, the existence of a geopolitical power that acts as an influential pivot within the Union (i.e., Germany and Russia); secondly, the presence of quite similar institutions, along with parallel composition and tasks (for instance, the case of Eurasian Economic Commission and the Council of Commission along with the European counterparts), and communitarian policies (i.e., single market, agricultural policies and the quest for single energy market); thirdly, the search for regional integration in a common geographical space through supranational frameworks.

Bank and financial systems

Then, going into more detail, moving on to the economic and financial side, another systemic difference lies in the role of the institutional banks, it has to say the ECB and the Eurasian Development Bank: first of all, while the ECB is an institution of the EU, even though not all the member States have adopted euro as a national currency, the Eurasian Development Bank is an external institution that operates together and within the EAEU along with member States, instead.

This status results in tasks and powers that are different on principle for each member: more in-depth, the ECB works to keep prices stable in the euro area and to contribute to the safety of the entire European banking system to preserve savings in the bank, as well as to keep inflation under control and to exert a determining role in communitarian financial stability; on the other side, EDB aims, firstly, to promote the development of members’ market economies and infrastructures as well as to assure economic growth along with fair mutual trade, in addition to the financing of projects with strong effects on integration and national development.

Thus, it is evident that approaches and missions of each bank are opposite by nature: indeed, on one side, the ECB holds monetary sovereignty and leads macroeconomic/financial policies within the euro area and besides it is not responsible for infrastructural projects with a political dimension; instead, on the other side, the EDB does not hold any of these “technical powers” in the absence of a single Union currency and, thus, it acts independently from financial markets and macroeconomic national frameworks; however, it takes practical action towards national economies.

Indeed, the EDB accounts for massive investments in infrastructures with direct consequences in production systems and their progressive integrations and harmonization. With reference to this point, the EDB promises to intensify soon its efforts in the fields of power engineering, metallurgy and mining, financial sector and agro-industrial complex, oil & gas industry: EDB, besides the already completed projects in the six-member States (Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan), is planning to complete 88 investment projects with the aid of EurAsEC Anti-Crisis Fund in order to prevent negative crisis consequences, to provide long-run stability and to foster economic integration. It may seem that EurAsEC, which is accompanied by the governing bodies of the Expert Council and the EDB, even if in the absence of a single Eurasian currency will hold some powers like those of the ECB, with political consequences and geopolitical scenarios still unclear.

Justice and Treaties

Then, another key factor in regional integration both for the EU and the EAEU is the adherence to and the application of the founding treaties by each member State to keep unaltered the system of standardized laws within the community. This crucial role is played, respectively, by the European Court of Justice and the Court of Eurasian Economic Union. To begin with the Court of the EAEU, based in Minsk, it is fundamental to specify the source of laws within the Union and the missions of the Court itself.

First, the primary law is formed by three models of international treaties: the Treaty on the EAEU, which is the founding treaty establishing Union’s principles and setting governmental bodies; the international treaties within the EAEU; the treaties between the EAEU and third parties. Then, the second law is made by the decisions and orders of the EAEU’s bodies, such as the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council and the EAEU Economic Commission.

Moreover, the EAEU Court is called to take concrete actions as follows: actions “concerning the compliance of an international treaty within the Union and in particular with regard to the provisions of the EAEU Treaty”; actions “concerning the compliance of a decision of the commission and in particular with regard to the EAEU Treaty and international treaties within the Union”; actions with reference to action or inaction of the Commission; actions with reference to the failure to fulfil obligations; actions with reference to a general request for clarification.

The most important mission of the EAEU court is to remove obstacles in the Union’s internal market and to solve disputes between national institutions and EAEU bodies. However, it is equally important to specify that the EAEU Court has no jurisdiction to give preliminary orientation regarding either the application of the EAEU Treaty or the international treaties within the Union or Commission decisions; notwithstanding, this fact does not exclude the influence and the effects that the Court, sooner or later, may have on national courts’ jurisdiction. This last point will depend on the future development of the EAEU in terms of institutional and aspirational growth of the current general framework.

On the other side, in the EU the European Court of Justice, based in Luxembourg, has a prominent role in: “interpreting the law”, it has to say that national courts of EU members are required to ensure that EU law is properly applied; “enforcing the law”, namely when a juridical action is taken against a national government for failing in applying EU law properly; “annulling EU legal acts”, if an EU act violates the EU treaties or fundamental rights; “ensuring the EU takes action” under certain circumstances; “sanctioning EU institutions”.

At a first sight, it is evident that the CJEU has quite more powers than CEAEU and that it acts in much more fields than the economic one. Indeed, the CJEU reflects the complex nature of the EU and the question of the importance of member States’ sovereignties within the EU, as opposed to the EAEU institutional framework: it follows that the CJEU does not merely solve disputes between member States, as in the case of the EAEU, because this is primarily guaranteed by the European Law and its specific value greater than national laws and almost equal to constitutions in practice, or it exclusively removes barriers to the single internal market because this is already prevented either by the existence of euro currency or by the European Single Market through the Agreement on the European Economic Area.


After giving a synthesis and having an overall view of the main function of the EU and the EAEU, it is possible to confirm what has been already clarified in the premises: namely, a first observation may be that it is true that in the last decades and, more precisely, in the last two/three decades there is an evident and dramatic trend in birth and growth of supranational organizations with concrete effects on the definition of national sovereignty, relations between institutions and citizenship as well as relations between states and international community, and this led mostly to the easing of nation-States apparatus in the need of international cooperation and coexistence towards common challenges; then, a second observation is that the easing of classical national institutions, due to these common necessities in times of a globalized world and outbreak of new and unprecedented menaces for national security and international order, led to the creation either of Soft Law-international organizations, such as the EAEU, or of Hard Law-international organization, such as the EU.

  1. http://www.eurasiancommission.org/ru/Documents/2797_1_EEK_ЦИФР_англpdf, http://www.eurasiancommission.org/ru/Documents/Брошюра%20Цифры%20и%20факты%20ит%20(Англ).pdf
  2. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies_en
  3. https://www.ecb.europa.eu/ecb/html/index.en.html
  4. https://eabr.org/en/projects/eabr/
  5. https://efsd.eabr.org/en/about/
  6. https://efsd.eabr.org/upload/docs/EFSD_eng_2020.pdf
  7. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317200152_The_Court_of_the_Eurasian_Economic_Union_Challenges_and_Perspectives
  8. https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/institutions-bodies/court-justice_en

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