28 may 2017

Central Asia news

Kyrgyzstan in the European Economic Union despite all doubts

25.12.2014 13:40 msk

Aleksey Vasilivetskiy

Analytics Business Politics Central Asia Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Russia

Photo courtesy RIA Novosti

On 23 Dec 2014, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev signed a document, which brought his country into the fold of the European Economic Union Treaty. Talks on the conditions of Kyrgyzstan’s joining the union lasted literally until the very last hour. A source in the Kyrgyz foreign ministry told Fergana about how this happened and what was achieved.

It is interesting to note that the political circles in Kyrgyzstan expressed concerns in regards with this process. It is, therefore, no wonder that a session of the committee for international affairs under the Kyrgyz parliament lasted until just one hour before President Atambayev flew out of Bishkek. The MPs were apparently wary of assuming responsibility and were procrastinating as much as possible in order to be able to say, if need be, “We did not approve of this document, you know, we have nothing to do with it!” Well, they did end up approving of it…

“The highest leadership of the Kyrgyz Republic behaved absolutely coherently,” Fergana’s interlocutor states. “They [i.e. authorities] have brought the process to its logical ending; that said, it was done in beneficial terms for the country. Until the very last moment, the main discussion point was the proportion of distributing collected customs fees after Kyrgyzstan starts implementing the common customs tariff with other [member-countries]. Until Monday, representatives of the Russian government offered to assign a 1.3% share for Kyrgyzstan from the ‘common pot,’ where the EEU member-countries [collect] customs fees. In other words, they insisted the same model agreed on with Armenia [be applied in Kyrgyzstan’s case]. The matter was solved within 24 hours at the level of the heads of EEU states; Kyrgyzstan achieved 1.9% and its proposals were met. This means that the country will at least not forfeit income from customs [fees]; most probably, it [income] will increase.”

Kyrgyz Minister of Economy Temir Sariyev told an interview with the RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz language service – Radio Azattyk: “Until today, the president and government spoke of Kyrgyzstan joining the EEU only in case the Kyrgyz side’s conditions are met. All of our proposals and demands were met, and only then the president signed the agreement.

Before we remove customs checkpoints between [Kyrgyzstan and] Kazakhstan, we must equip [other] customs checkpoints. These are the airports in Osh and Bishkek, and the Torugart and Irkeshtam customs points.

The agreement will enter force on 1 May 2015. The Eurasian Economic Union provides for freedom of movement of labour force, services and capital.”
Kyrgyzstan will experience the practical benefits of this move over the next several months. In accordance with the “roadmap” to join the EEU and the Customs Union, Kyrgyzstan will receive assistance from its neighbors to equip and furnish its borders. Russia and Kazakhstan will provide 200m and 100m dollars, respectively, and Kyrgyzstan will not be obliged to return them. The Kremlin will provide said amount in the form of cash, while Kazakhstan will grant its neighbor with cash and some of the equipment it has recently purchased to equip its own borders with Kyrgyzstan.

By 9 May 2015, as the heads of state agreed, there will be four border and customs checkpoints between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, which will function in the new simplified mode. The simplification of border crossing is expected to ease the difficulties motorists and regular citizens face when visiting their neighbors. All other common checkpoints will be added to the pilot four checkpoints later, since Kyrgyzstan will only be able to equip said checkpoints by early May.

Kyrgyzstan is also assuming responsibility to step up the border and customs control at its border crossing points, which are now becoming the EEU’s external borders by extension. There are plans for regular inspections with the participation of Russian and Kazakh representatives to ensure that Kyrgyzstan is fulfilling obligations it has assumed. If control over the border and customs checkpoints is stepped up, it would be a success for Kyrgyzstan in and of itself. (Background: The Chinese and Kyrgyz authorities’ statistic data on amounts of goods crossing the countries’ border differ greatly because the Kyrgyz side can only exert limited control at the border.)

Obviously, there are “painful” aspects of the agreement—Kyrgyzstan has to forfeit income it receives from re-exporting goods from China, Turkey and other countries to Kazakhstan and Russia. This [forfeiture] will significantly impact the country’s largest markets. However, the problem is not that dramatic, as the re-export has already been dwindling for a year after Kyrgyzstan joined the Customs Union.

Aleksey Vasilivetskiy

Fergana international information agency.