Kyrgyzstan performs about-face on Customs Union roadmap

By bne IntelliNews May 13, 2014

bne -


The Kyrgyz government has approved a draft roadmap for the country's accession to the Russia-led Customs Union, it said on May 12. The announcement comes less than a week after the prime minister suggested Bishkek was seeking to postpone its entry. 

Economy Minister Temir Sariev told reporters that the document will be submitted to lawmakers to be debated in the parliamentary committees on international affairs and fiscal policies, according to RFE/RL. It will also be sent to the Customs Union member states - Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Claiming that Kyrgyzstan would seek to delay accession by a year or more, Prime Minister Joomart Otorbaev pledged on May 7 that after his government finalises the roadmap it would be offered up for public for discussion. However, the PM has since been held talks in Moscow over the issue, according to

In the face of growing opposition to accession, Bishkek has had cold feet for some time, with senior officials insisting that it wants more say on the roadmap, accusing Russia of dictating terms. However, in the latest announcement, Sariev appears not to have mentioned putting the roadmap in front of the populace. 

Instead, he noted that it is not the same as joining the club. "The adoption of the roadmap will not mean accession to the Customs Union. A treaty should still be signed and ratified," he said.

The economy minister also added that the government is considering ways to fund measures stipulated in the roadmap and to adapt the Kyrgyz economy for entry to the Customs Union. Only last month, Bishkek insisted it would not move on the accession process without financial support for preparatory measures.


The swift completion and cabinet approval of the draft roadmap is a surprise. Bishkek had appeared to be moving steadily in the opposite direction. Enthusiasm for the Russian-led project has particularly waned this year, even amongst existing members such as Kazakhstan, with countries clearly rattled by Moscow's attempts to strong arm Ukraine into the club. 

On May 7, Otorbayev offered the strongest suggestion yet that membership is anything but imminent for Kyrgyzstan. "There are two or three issues remaining to be resolved in the roadmap," the PM said according to Kabar news agency. "In late May, at the forthcoming summit in Astana, we should make a statement. Kyrgyzstan is a democratic country and we should take into account public opinion."

RFE/RL reported on May 5 that dozens of activists from the NGOs opposing accession held a rally to protest government plans to take the country further into Russian orbit. They claim Kyrgyzstan's membership of the union will "restrict its political and economic independence".

Unlike Kazakhstan, which did not hold public hearings on the country's membership, Kyrgyzstan cannot afford to ignore public opinion. While Kazakhstan has a strong authoritarian system, Kyrgyzstan has seen two governments violently ousted in the past nine years.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyz labour migrants to Russia and Kazakhstan would gain from the country's entry to the bloc, Otorbayev has pointed out. "The issue of improving the state of labour migrants is a priority," he said. According to the UNDP, remittances from Kyrgyz working abroad exceed $2bn a year, accounting for 31% of the country's GDP. However, Russia has spent the last couple of years clamping down on workers from Central Asia.

Bishkek is looking leverage such issues as it accelerates efforts to persuade the population of the benefits of accession. "Risks of non-accession to the union are much greater than those associated with the membership," Sariyev said. "Without the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Space we will not be able to solve issues of migrants."

Otorbaev also recently brought up problems at two of Kyrgyzstan's biggest bazaars. Merchants claim business has dropped off alarmingly due to the strict rules policing the re-export of the Chinese goods that fill the markets to Customs Union member Kazakhstan, which accounts for 70% of sales.

Although indicating that membership is still months away, the PM stressed the importance of the two bazaars, where "tens of thousands of people are working," and said his government is considering measures to keep them functioning.


#CustomsUnion #EEU

Related Articles

Austria's Erste rides CEE recovery to swing to profit in Jan-Sep

bne IntelliNews - Erste Group Bank saw the continuing economic recovery across Central and Eastern Europe push its January-September financial results back into net profit of €764.2mn, the ... more

EU, US partly suspend Belarus sanctions for four months

bne IntelliNews - The Council of the European Union (EU) has suspended for four months the asset ... more

bne:Chart - CEE/CIS countries perform particularly well in World Bank's "Doing Business 2016" survey

Henry Kirby in London - Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States’ (CEE/CIS) countries performed particularly well in the World ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.