Opposition to Customs Union grows in Armenia and Kyrgyzstan

By bne IntelliNews September 29, 2014

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Support among Armenians and Kyrgyz for Russia-led integration in the former Soviet space has fallen in the past year as Armenia and Kyrgyzstan  finalise their bids to join the Customs Union (CU) which will change into the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) later this year or next year.

According to a Eurasian Barometer 2014 poll conducted by the Eurasian Development Bank's Centre for Integration Studies and published on September 22, opposition to the CU among Armenians increased by three percentage points to 8%. Opposition to the CU in Kyrgyzstan went up by 16 percentage points to a whopping 30% of those polled. Overall support for the CU in these countries decreased by three percentage points to 64% in Armenia and 22 percentage points to 50% in Kyrgyzstan. Support for deeper integration with former Soviet countries had increased to 67% and 72% in the candidate countries respectively in 2013.

The pollster explained the drop in Armenia by the fact that the country "doesn't have a common border with the CU and EEU and, correspondingly, it cannot weigh up all advantages of hypothetical membership". On the rise in anti-CU sentiment in Kyrgyzstan, it said this trend needed "careful verification and explanation with additional information". Kyrgyzstan shows a "decrease in practically all integration parameters and a rise in isolationist moods which points to serious processes in the public opinion held by Kyrgyz citizens and changes in the state of the information field in the country", the report says.

In contrast to the situation in the candidate states, pro-integration sentiment is on the rise in the existing members of the CU - Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Opposition to the CU fell by two percentage points to 4% in Kazakhstan, while support increased by 11 percentage points to 84%. In Russia opposition fell by three percentage points to 2% and support increased by 12 percentage points to 79%. In Belarus both support and opposition increased by three percentage points to 68% and 6% respectively.

In all other former Soviet countries support for Russia-led integration projects decreased while opposition to it increased. The study in Turkmenistan was not conducted in 2012 and this year. Ukraine showed the highest growth in opposition to integration with Russia and other former Soviet countries, with 50% of polled against and only 31% for it (28% and 50% respectively in 2013).

Presenting the poll results for 2012 and 2013 at the Astana Economic Forum in late May, Vladimir Pereboyev, the centre's director, said that "Euras-scepticism" was on the rise in the former Soviet countries, partly helped by Russia's annexation of Crime and continuing meddling in eastern Ukraine. "It [Russia's policy towards Ukraine] is impacting the perception of Eurasian integration," he told bne. At the same time, he blamed the "politicisation" of the Ukrainian events which did not help Russia's cause. "The problem is that the situation is getting very politicised and everything is blamed exclusively on Russia, whereas all this is not true," he complained.

The Eurasian Barometer 2014 poll was conducted in CIS countries, Ukraine and Georgia between March and May 2014, involving 13,237 respondents with at least 1,000 from each country.

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