The initiators of the CES have declared its main goal - to create conditions for sustainable and effective development of the member states and to improve living standards. It is rather a declaration of intentions. But now it is necessary to give it concrete substance. Namely - to ensure genuine freedom of movement for goods, services, capital and labor across borders of the member states. To put it otherwise, to create a common market.
This idea of such an economic union has originated with the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev. He formulated and substantiated this idea as far back as 1994 in his speech at Moscow State University. Then it seemed to many an unrealizable and utopian scheme in a lot of ways. Because you know, at that time in the former Soviet Union centrifugal tendencies clearly dominated: most of the leaders of the newly-formed states tried to move as far as possible away from the former mother country – Russia, and find new allies and partners outside the borders of the collapsed Soviet empire.
The way to the Common Economic Space was difficult and long. Sometimes it seemed that its foundation, the Commonwealth of Independent States, will soon collapse or turn into a certain president club for discussion that decides nothing. And the idea of the CES, an agreement on which was signed by the presidents of Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus in 2003, did not work immediately - Kiev soon rejected it, and the other project participants never were able to agree on mutually acceptable terms for a new economic union.
This notwithstanding some of the CIS countries leaders’ sensible approach and ability to estimate the situation in the years ahead have prevailed. Already in the second half of the 90s of last century they received and endorsed the concept of “multispeed integration” advanced by the same Kazakhstani President. According to it, without waiting for a consensus of all members of the Commonwealth, a distinctive “hard core” of states appeared in it, ready to go from talks and debates directly to the association itself. The others, according to that logic, were free to develop either on their own or join a new alliance or collaborate with it in various areas.
So this happened in time. In November last year, Dmitry Medvedev, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Alexander Lukashenko signed the documents on integration within the CES. In particular, they signed the Declaration of the Eurasian Economic Integration and the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Commission, which will start work since the beginning of this year, under the direction of Viktor Khristenko. This commission will be a supranational body, comprising representatives from Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, and from July 1, will replace the Customs Union. It will have the right to make decisions independently that will be mandatory for all the three countries. By the way, since the new year 17 international treaties of the Common Economic Space, defining the general rules of the game will come into force.
For another thing, from 1 January the EurAsEC Court starts its work in Minsk, which will consider economic disputes not only between the CES members, but also between individual firms and entrepreneurs. And six months ago, our common outer boundary appeared, and on the inner borders the customs authorities of the three countries stopped monitoring.
Henceforward a huge common market with more than 165 million consumers has appeared on the Eurasian continent. In fact, a common economic and legal framework for businesses of the three countries is being created: a single monetary policy, free movement of capital and agriculture joint support, competition rules applying to everyone without discrimination, the ban on protectionism, free movement of goods across borders, unification of customs rules and tariffs.
In addition, each company registered in any of the states, will actually take full advantage of domestic producers, i.e., in fact, of national regime. Yet to realize this program we are to remove all obstacles for the free trade regime, to agree on a common customs tariff, non-tariff regulatory measures and principles of merchandise trade with third countries.
Finally, the rules of labour migration will change. Now, any employer will be able to hire staff from the partner countries without quotas or work permits, will have no need to register at place of stay and will be allowed to live in a neighboring country as long as their labour contract lasts.
In other words, a prototype is being formed of the very confederation Mikhail Gorbachev was trying to create in the last year of his governing. Then 12 Soviet republics could enter it. Now, only three. But Kirghizia has already expressed its desire to join it. Tajikistan may follow it, and it is not improbable that Armenia too. And for others the doors are also open.
However, the Common Economic Space, as formerly also the Customs Union - is by no means an ultimate aim of the leaders of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. This is only an intermediate stage of creating a genuine confederation - the Eurasian Union. According to the plan declared by them, it must be established by 2015.
You can suppose with some degree of probability that this plan will be implemented, and ahead of schedule at that. But only under one condition: if the aim of unifying prevails over national egoism, political ambitions and corrupt traditions. Otherwise, the CES will become not a friendly multifamily house, but the same quarrelsome communal flat, which, in the long run, will again be doomed to exchange…