Kyrgyz president criticises Customs Union roadmap

By bne IntelliNews December 17, 2013

bne -

Kyrgyzstan's entry to the Russian-led Customs Union may be further delayed after President Almazbek Atambaev joined officials in indicating Bishkek is unhappy with the country's accession roadmap.

Atambaev told journalists on December 16 that Kyrgyzstan will not join the bloc using a roadmap that "someone else has laid out." While Kyrgyzstan is already in accession negotiations to join the Customs Union founded by Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Atambaev told a press conference in Bishkek that the country will join "only if all the requirements of Kyrgyzstan are taken account," state news agency Kabar reported.

Atambaev insisted that Kyrgyzstan's "national interests" would be protected if the country joins the Customs Union. The president's comments follow criticism of the plan by First Deputy Prime Minister Djoomart Otorbaev. Earlier this month, the official complained the Eurasian Economic Commission had drawn up the roadmap without input from Kyrgyzstan.

At a government session on December 11, Otorbaev called the document on Kyrgyzstan's accession to the Russian-led bloc "unacceptable". He also claimed that it could spark "social problems and instability" within Kyrgyzstan.

Kyrgyzstan was the first country aside from the three founders - Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan - to express an interest in joining the Customs Union, and it is due to sign the accession roadmap by the end of this year, Russian presidential advisor Sergey Glazyev said on November 12. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced on May 29 that Kyrgyzstan is on track to become the fourth member of the Customs Union on January 1, 2015.

Despite the controversy, Customs Union entry appears popular among the Kyrgyz population. A recent survey by the Eurasia Development Bank found that 72% of respondents support accession to the club. However, Bishkek has appeared to seek ways to delay joining, suggesting it will need additional economic support from current members to help it compete in the free trade arena.

Joining the Customs Union "is highly important to us," previous Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva said in 2011. "Or rather, you could say that they are pulling us in, because everything produced in Kyrgyzstan is aimed at the markets of Kazakhstan and Russia. Moreover, our labor and capital is oriented in exactly that direction."

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