Kyrgyzstan ready to join the Eurasian Economic Union, or maybe not

By bne IntelliNews May 8, 2015

Jacopo Dettoni in Almaty -

 

The negotiations over Kyrgyzstan’s entry into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) are going right down to the wire, with the Kyrgyz government holding an extraordinary meeting of EEU member states in Moscow on May 7, the day before the trade bloc’s summit.

The meeting is meant to fix two last pending issues and pave the way for the May 8 meeting of the EEU members’ heads of state, which is supposed to finally seal Kyrgyzstan’s EEU membership, although another few weeks may be needed for it to be fully operative.

Launched in January on the foundations of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, the EEU aims at establishing a common market in the former Soviet space. Armenia already joined the three founding states to become a new member of the common market on January 2.

Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev signed the treaty of Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the EEU back in December and pledged that the country would officially join the common market in May after it implemented a specific road map to meet the EEU requirements and the government ratified a set of protocols to the treaty.

The Kyrgyz government did ratify the protocols on May 4, freshly appointed Prime Minister Timur Sariyev confirmed in a statement. “The government has a clear position: the Kyrgyz Republic will join the EEU,” he said in the statement. However, Kyrgyz authorities seem ready to join on their terms only and amended some of the protocols to the treaty before ratifying them, de facto delaying the country’s final entry as the proposed amendments now have to be approved by each EEU member, and then ratified by their national parliaments.

“It will take time, maybe 10 days, maybe another 20 days,” local news website 24.kg quoted Sariyev as saying on May 4.

The other EEU members have aired some scepticism though, as it does not seem logical that Kyrgyzstan amends the protocols even before it joins the union, Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Two major pending issues still make Kyrgyzstan hesitant. The government wants to an exemption from import duties for Chinese products related to infrastructure projects, as previously agreed between the Kyrgyz and Chinese authorities, the Economy Ministry confirmed in a statement. A second issue concerns phytosanitary controls for local agriculture products, which have to be adjusted to the meet EEU standards.

“After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the veterinary services that were in place in collective farms were abolished,” Kuban Choroyev, an independent economist in Bishkek, tells bne Intellinews.

“Twenty years on, we are not are not equipped with the necessary laboratories for the controls that would meet the standards and norms of the EEU. […] Russia is interested in importing tasty meat from Kyrgyzstan, as it used to do during the Soviet era when Kyrgyz meat would fully supply Leningrad, now St Petersburg. But first they want to protect themselves, and make sure they can trust Kyrgyz meat again.”

As the country’s operational entry in the EEU date may be delayed, pressure is building up on entrepreneurs and migrant workers. Kyrgyz exporters have reportedly accumulated big stocks of export products such as garments, waiting for the cheaper export duties that will take effect when the country joins the EEU. On the other hand, many of thousands of Kyrgyz migrants working in Russia have not updated their working permits, betting on the fact that Kyrgyzstan would join the Union at the beginning of May as planned. They now worry that further delays would expose them to controls by Russian migration authorities.  

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