10 August 2012, 12:41

The future of the Eurasian Union

The future of the Eurasian Union

In early August, Nizhny Novgorod hosted an international conference on the future of the Eurasian Union, "Public Diplomacy and Eurasian Rapprochement: Supporters and Skeptics". Experts from Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Moldova discussed the current problems of integration in the former Soviet Union. The organizer of the event was the Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund.

The very first session of the conference, on assessing the Eurasian geopolitical project, raised a heated discussion about its geography. There were proposals to expand the alliance to include, in addition to the already formed "Eurasian trio" (Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus), new members: Ukraine, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. And in the future, it could even include countries that were not part of the USSR (for example, Turkey).

However, some of the experts were skeptical and called for approaching the integration process with extreme caution. There was an interesting proposal to introduce a new format of cooperation with partners of the Eurasian Union – an associate membership. This is reminiscent of an approach now taking shape in the European Union (Europe at "different speeds" of integration).

The political positioning of the Eurasian Union provoked a sharp debate. Opinions were divided. Some advocated that this association should be part of a single "Greater Europe", which in addition includes the current European Union and North America. Moreover, in this arrangement, the Eurasian Union should play the role of the so-called "conservative Europe", which continues to defend the basic values of European civilization.

But this issue was not supported by all the participants. According to some experts, the Eurasian project should rather be viewed as a Slavo-Turkic union. However, this concept, which was formulated by Lev Gumilev, Soviet historian, ethnologist and anthropologist, was also not understood by most of the experts. Therefore, the "political" part of the discussion ended with an agreement on the need to develop a common system of values that unifies members of the Eurasian Union regardless of ethnic or religious affiliations of the populations of its member countries.

Among the positive aspects of Eurasian integration, experts noted the formation of a common market that would stretch from the Pacific to Eastern Europe and the resulting increase in trade among the project's participants. However, many participants noted the uncertainty over the further development of the Eurasian project, which as soon as it reaches a certain economic level will inevitably require some degree of political association.

The most interesting part of the discussion at the conference included the PR aspects of the positioning of Eurasian integration. Indeed, for the Eurasian project to be attractive, it is necessary to carefully explain its activities. If, for example, a lot is known about the success of the European Union, much less is known about the achievements reached in integrating former Soviet republics.

It is obvious that work on communicating the idea of the Eurasian Union should be systematic and comprehensive. It should be carried out on a regular basis and include not only a broad audience but individual target groups. The most important of these are the political elite and business community of potential participants in the process of Eurasian integration. Work with the elites ("elite communications") is one of the keys to the success of the Eurasian project. At the same time, it is necessary to communicate not only with that part of the post-Soviet elite that is involved in public administration, but with the entire spectrum of the elite, including the so-called counter-elite (opposition).

Of course, we should not forget about the other direction: work with young people in CIS countries. It is critical to create a positive image of the Eurasian Union as a successful supranational education of generations that will determine the image of their countries in the near future. Otherwise, it will be impossible to launch a serious, long-term process of Eurasian integration.

Activities such as the international expert conference that took place in Nizhny Novgorod are necessary today. They promote a comprehensive discussion of the Eurasian project. And perhaps, ultimately, they will help make this project more attractive to a variety of audiences in the post-Soviet countries.

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