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Post-Soviet Integration : The Particular Nature of the EEU

If the EEU seeks to follow the example of the EU, it must be recognized that the two organisations do not have the same history, and this can greatly impact the future of the EEU. Indeed, the European Union was born from the desire of former belligerents to integrate together in order to face external competition and to avoid having to fight again in the future by forging strong economic ties and responding to States’ needs no longer by conquest but by negotiated political integration.

The EEU, on the other hand, comes from a completely different background: that of a collapsed Empire seeking to rebuild itself. Where the European Union seeks to integrate a space that has never been integrated and was only a space of borders and conflicts, the EEU already benefits from the remnants of Soviet and imperial integration of past centuries. . Economic, industrial ties and transport networks already existed before the creation of the EEU. But at the same time, there is an equally substantial historical liability. Where the European Union has resolutely decided to follow a model of liberal democracy based on human rights and the maintenance of peace between comparable powers, the EEU is composed of kleptocratic states born from the collapse of an Empire that had at its heart Russian domination over other nationalities. A return to integration in this space can be experienced as a return to the domination of one actor over others.

But without wanting to paint too gloomy a portrait of this new integration, we must also realize that it seems inevitable. It began more than 300 years ago, when Russian rulers decided it was in their interest to conquer and dominate what they called the "near abroad". Thus, if the European States never had the same language, the former Russian Empire gave birth to States having inherited the same culture and speaking the same language. In this sense, therefore, the CIS and the EEU seem to be reminiscent of the model of the British Commonwealth. But here too the comparison is not perfect because the British Empire was an overseas Empire, British domination was therefore experienced as an occupation by a distant state. Russia, on the other hand, has always been at the head of a continental Empire. Independent or not, the States that surround it are necessarily under its influence.

Similarly, another important aspect: the nature of the elites. Many authors (notably Lindberg) reflected on the fact that integrations, like the European one, must be supported by the support of the elites. In other words, if state elites see regional integration as being in their interest to conquer new markets or to have the same legal framework, governments will be obliged to do so. What followed in Europe is the creation of a new elite at the regional level, which occupies the main decision-making places of the EU. In the EEU, the Union-wide elite already exists. Indeed, most of the political or business leaders of the former USSR come from the Soviet nomenklatura. That is to say, they already have a common culture and a common vision of the modern world.. It is therefore not surprising to see that the initiative to create the EEU came not from Russia but from Nazarbayev., President of Kazakhstan and former close friend of Gorbachev from the CPSU.

One could almost say that resuming integration in the post-Soviet space was only a matter of time. In the end, what has taken place over the previous three decades is the change from one form of integration to another. In the ruins of the Soviet Empire, national actors found the will to rebuild what already existed.

But the uniqueness that will play the most in the future is the weight of Russia in the EEU as well as the economic and technological development of the other member states. It should be kept in mind that Russia is much larger, much richer and much more populated than the rest of the states of the EEU. Ukraine, which did not join the EEU but which Russia wanted to see present in this organization because it is the most developed state in the region after itself, represents only 10 to 15% of the Russian economy. Thus the balance of influence within the EEU cannot exist. Russia largely overwhelms the other members with its power. Its capacity for economic and technological pressure is also unparalleled against other members who are classified as “Developing Countries”.

Thus, if on paper the EEU follows the European example, in fact, it is in no way comparable and its evolution can only be different. Where the EU attends to a "concert of Europe" where each State has its weight and everyone is more or less on an equal footing, the EEU is ultimately composed of a soloist and a choir obedient to him (and therefore might try to break away from him if he doesn’t respect them enough).

We are now going to study how the functioning of the EEU is different from that of the EU in fact and in its institutional balance to prove how the geopolitical structure of the whole influences the functioning of the international organization.


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