Astana should become the capital of the Eurasian Union: Nazarbayev’s reply to Putin

Astana should become the capital of the Eurasian Union: Nazarbayev’s reply to PutinPresident Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, following Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, delivered a programmatic article on the Eurasian Union in the pages of Kazakhstan’s Izvestia, a REGNUM correspondent informs. In the material, he discusses the prospects for economic integration and dwells on the myths surrounding the union. REGNUM presents to your attention this publication in full.


Only a few weeks separate us from two significant events that symbolically coexist in the political calendar.

First, it is the 20 anniversary of the signing of the Almaty Declaration of the CIS. It proclaimed the emergence on the ruins of the USSR of a completely unique in the history of Eurasia and the whole world of interstate association - the Commonwealth of Independent States. Secondly, this is the beginning of the implementation of 1 in January 2012, the new project - the Common Economic Space. They are organically intertwined with years of experience in crystallizing the national interests of the new independent states, searching for the optimal model of Eurasian integration and the new hopes of millions of ordinary people.

Stopped Chaos Disintegration

21 December 1991 in Almaty at the summit of post-Soviet states, convened on my persistent initiative, was stopped by the dangerous process of the chaotic collapse of a vanishing superpower. As a direct participant in those events, I still remember their inexpressible drama in my memory. It seemed that even time was bent under the weight of the problems and contradictions that accompany those historical days.

Feelings of joy for finding long-awaited independence by Kazakhstan and other republics of the former Union were closely intertwined with the realization of the greatest complexity of the historical challenge that fell to the lot of our peoples.

At that time, the political crisis finished off the economy. A single economic mechanism was torn before our eyes. Not just separate enterprises, but entire industries fell to the side. Many people were left without work and livelihoods. The cities gaped with black openings of apartment windows, left without electricity, there was no elementary heat. This picture was typical for almost all regions of the former Soviet Union.

Distributed ethnic conflicts that began in the last years of the USSR.

Today we can openly say how great and real was the danger of a rift for all post-Soviet countries on ethnic and religious grounds. In this respect, a real example of the parallel collapse of the Yugoslav federation is more than indicative. I, like most of my colleagues, the leaders of the new independent states, realized the perniciousness of such a path, bringing our countries only fratricidal strife, a bottomless abyss of poverty and a high probability of being on the sidelines of history, occupying only the niche of the raw materials appendage of the world economy.

The creation of the CIS drew a line under the short but difficult historical period of the collapse of the superpower and at the same time became the starting point of the new integration process in the post-Soviet space.

And I am proud that 20 years ago, the only correct decision at that time to create the CIS, in the current format that still exists, was made on the fertile land of Kazakhstan. Adopted on the Kazakhstani initiative, with my most active personal participation and thanks to the manifested political wisdom of all the participants of that memorable historic meeting in Almaty.

Historical role of the Commonwealth

Over the years 20 to the CIS has been a lot of sharp criticism. I, too, have always been among those who expected more from the development of the Commonwealth, especially in matters of economic integration. Because I knew about the real possibilities of regional integration in order to strengthen the country's independence, overcome the crisis, boost the economy, improve the living standards of people. Because I knew about the high expectations that were connected with the Commonwealth millions of ordinary people living in Karaganda or Novosibirsk, Dnepropetrovsk or Grodno, Nukus or Khorog, Nakhichevan or Mary, Osh or Bender, Batumi or Gyumri. This opportunity gave me a unique multinational people of Kazakhstan.

During the sessions of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, meetings with Kazakhstanis, from numerous letters from ordinary citizens of all countries of the Commonwealth, I received strong impulses about the desire of ordinary people to maintain the close and strong interconnection of our states, especially economies. In the 20-year history of the CIS, there were moments when we came very close to decisions that could be fateful for all the participating countries.

In September, 1993 was signed the Treaty on the creation of an economic union. He intended to go through the stages of creating a free trade zone, a customs, payment and currency union and form a common market for goods, services and capital. But at that time, centrifugal tendencies were stronger. The agreement on a free trade zone signed by all the leaders of the CIS states ratified only 6 states, but among them there was neither Russia, nor Ukraine, nor Belarus.

In 1998, I sent to all my colleagues in the CIS Council of Heads of State my draft of a full-fledged Treaty on a common economic space. But he was never considered at a high level.

For objective and subjective reasons, the CIS has not become a decisive structure for the integration of the post-Soviet space. And yet the world did not yet know such an organization that, in the absence of rigid supranational structures, ensured the convergence of positions and the adoption of joint decisions on many sensitive issues of interstate relations. I would especially like to note the regular meetings of the heads of state, which contributed to the peaceful course of the disengagement of states and the strengthening of their independence.

In this sense, the Commonwealth has become a platform for cooperation and interaction. Within its framework, there are regular summits of heads of state and government, and 39 branch intergovernmental bodies operate. It is indicative that Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Mongolia are actively participating in the work of some of them.

The CIS Inter-Parliamentary Assembly has developed more than 300 model laws that are actively used in lawmaking at the national level.

The collective security treaty is the core of the military security of the entire CIS, even though not all states participate in it.

Energy, transport, cultural and humanitarian sphere, cooperation in the fight against cross-border crime, extremism and terrorism are all promising areas of multilateral cooperation in the CIS.

The most important result of two decades is that within the framework of the Commonwealth our common experience was polished, which made it possible in time to move on to more productive forms of multi-format and diverse regional integration.

The Eurasian Initiative

Today, it is customary to call the process of rapprochement of states formed after the collapse of the USSR, Eurasian integration. This concept is widely used by analysts and experts, and, importantly, it has become an organic part of the lexicon of political elites both in the near and far abroad. Now it does not cause rejection and no one is surprised at the idea of ​​forming the Eurasian Union. Moreover, it is talked about at the highest level as the immediate goal and a specific integration project. But only seventeen years ago it was completely different.

In March, 1994, for the first time, I proposed to create in the CIS space a qualitatively new integration association - the Eurasian Union of States. This idea was not accidentally promulgated by me in the academic audience of Moscow State University named after M. V. Lomonosov. I directly addressed the intellectual elite of the entire Commonwealth with a firm determination to put out of the stupor the process of multilateral integration, in which he found himself two years after the creation of the CIS.

I frankly said that the CIS does not meet the objective requirements of the time and does not ensure the integration of the participating countries, which our peoples so badly need. Therefore, there is a need to create a new interstate association, which would act on clearer principles.

I have always been impressed by the views of the outstanding Russian thinker Lev Gumilyov, who went further than all the followers of the “school of Eurasianism” that emerged among the Russian emigrants of the first half of the twentieth century. He conceptually substantiated the unity of the geographical and cultural and historical ties of the peoples of a large part of Northern and Central Eurasia. The name of this scientist is the Eurasian National University created in Astana on my initiative.

My approach to Eurasianism, refracted to the specific historical conditions of the turn of the XX and XXI centuries, was based on the following principles.

First, without denying the importance of cultural and civilizational factors, I suggested building integration primarily on the basis of economic pragmatism. Economic interests, not abstract geopolitical ideas and slogans, are the main engine of integration processes. Therefore, the fundamental principle of the future Eurasian Union is a single economic space as a large-scale area of ​​the joint successful development of our peoples.

Secondly, I have always been and remain a supporter of voluntary integration. Each state and society must independently come to the understanding that in a globalizing world there is no sense in endlessly reveling in one’s own originality and closing in one’s borders. Voluntary integration, based on the interests of the people and the country, is the shortest path to prosperity.

Thirdly, I initially saw the Eurasian Union as an association of states based on the principles of equality, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, respect for sovereignty and the inviolability of state borders.

Fourthly, I proposed to create supranational bodies of the Eurasian Union, which would act on the basis of consensus, taking into account the interests of each participating country, had clear and real powers. But this in no way implies the transfer of political sovereignty. This is an axiom. That was the successful experience of creating the European Union, the basis of which was equality of integration partners. All these aspects were detailed in a package of my proposals addressed to all CIS heads of state.

In those days I received numerous positive responses to my Eurasian initiative from the public in almost all post-Soviet countries. But politicians were not ready to discuss it in detail. Perhaps it was natural. The wave of euphoria from gaining long-awaited independence prevented that generation of leaders of the CIS countries from seeing the long-term potential of the idea of ​​Eurasian integration.

But it is impossible not to see that this initiative was a breakthrough for the integration process in the CIS space. In the following years, it was gradually implemented in the creation of a number of successful intergovernmental structures - the Collective Security Treaty Organization, the Eurasian Economic Community, the Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia.

Steps to ordinary people

In the fall of 2010, I had a meeting with a group of young Russian journalists. Our conversation unexpectedly began with their gratitude to me for the fact that for the first time in many years they arrived in Kazakhstan without passing through exhausting customs control at the border. I replied that they should definitely say the same words to Russian leaders - Vladimir Putin, with whom in 2007, we signed an agreement on the creation of a trilateral, with the participation of our countries and Belarus, the Customs Union, and Dmitry Medvedev, who personally did a lot for that so that this integration project finally becomes a reality.

I have always believed that objectively Kazakhstan and Russia are the locomotives of Eurasian integration. I would also like to note the enormous contribution to the creation of the Customs Union of our Belarusian partners and personally President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko. We did a great job together. In less than three years, a single Customs Code of the three countries was developed and adopted, and a supranational body, the Commission of the Customs Union, was created. More than 11 thousands of commodity items have been agreed for the application of a unified tariff in trade with countries outside the common customs territory. Today the macroeconomic effect of the creation of the Customs Union is obvious. In the first half of 2011 alone, the total turnover of the three countries grew by one third. It is predicted that by the end of the year it will reach the level of 100 billions of dollars, which will be 13 percent more than last year. Moreover, the most rapidly growing volumes of cross-border trade between Kazakhstan and Russia - more than 40 percent.

I am convinced that summing up the results of the first year of full-fledged work of the Customs Union will provide more accurate figures of positive dynamics in all key indicators - national GDP growth, attracting foreign investment, reducing production costs, and so on. Of course, we foresaw certain difficulties associated with the period of adaptation of the economic actors of the three countries to unified customs tariffs and import duties. There are some inconsistencies between national customs administrations, which are methodically eliminated by the work of the Customs Union Commission.

The Customs Union has expanded the boundaries of the market for Kazakhstani manufacturers to Brest and Vladivostok. In 2011, our exports to Russia grew by 60 percent, and to Belarus - more than 2,3 times. Restrictions on movement within a single customs territory of foreign currency have been lifted. The same happened for commodity producers of Russia and Belarus. All these are real advantages especially for all Kazakhstanis, Russians and Belarusians.

In 1998, I proposed the program "Ten simple steps towards ordinary people." Many of its provisions have already been implemented in a bilateral and multilateral format. Our joint borders become transparent for the citizens of our countries to easily cross. The Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus is the first truly voluntary and equal form of integration in the entire CIS. It brings together the peoples of our countries for the first time in history on the basis of mutual respect, preservation of national identity and awareness of the inseparability of a common future. The consistent transformation of the Customs Union into the Common Economic Space, and over time, of which I am absolutely sure that the Eurasian Economic Union will become a powerful incentive for the prosperity of our peoples, will bring our countries to a leading position in the global world.

Eurasian community

The Customs Union of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia has grown logically from the Eurasian Economic Community. Its creation in 2000 in the format of five countries - Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan, became a turning point in the practice of Eurasian integration. In total for 11 years, an extensive structure of mechanisms for various dimensions of the integration process has been formed within the EurAsEC framework. Moreover, they are established not only at the intergovernmental level, but also from the bottom on the initiative of businessmen, scientists, education and culture, NGOs, youth.

The creation of the Eurasian Development Bank and the Anti-Crisis Fund was timely, given the global financial and economic crisis. Today, this makes it possible not only to finance specific economic projects in a number of EurAsEC countries, but also to provide urgent assistance, for example, to the Belarusian economy, which is acutely experiencing the effects of the global crisis. It is significant that, for example, in the format of the Customs Union of the three countries, industry-specific producers' associations are quickly emerging. Our entrepreneurs integrate to harmonize their interests, develop rules for internal competition and mutual support.

The Eurasian Media Forum, the Eurasian Association of Television and Radio work substantively. The Eurasian film and theater festivals, various conferences, youth forums are becoming a tradition.

At the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, I noted that today the Eurasian Association of Universities, the Eurasian Club of Scientists, the International Center for High Technologies, which I initiated, are pushing the horizons of integration of the educational and scientific space. In other words, there is a process of vertical integration that permeates the entire depth of the life of our societies. Is this not a manifestation of the vital force of the Eurasian integration idea?

Today, our people are increasingly feeling themselves part of the emerging Eurasian identity with its cultural, religious and linguistic diversity, but with a common desire for fruitful economic interaction and good neighborliness. We all witness the birth of a new unique Eurasian community of nations, which has not only a wealth of experience in sharing the past, but also an indivisible common history of the future.

New reading of the Eurasian idea in the XXI century

In my idea of ​​creating a Eurasian Union, there has never been and there is neither a Manilovite nor a political nostalgia overshadowing the future. At its core, there has always been and remains a pragmatic approach, denying any form of violence against economic policies, no matter how well-intentioned or expedient they may be disguised.

In the Eurasian project it is short-sighted to see only the possibility of collectively shutting off external economic, military, political, informational, technological, environmental and other threats. With such a narrow understanding of the historical perspective of the EAU, there will be a great temptation to find a new similarity to the “iron curtain”, but according to different geopolitical patterns. This is absolutely unacceptable and unacceptable.

We consider the Eurasian Union as an open project. It cannot be imagined without broad interaction, for example, with the European Union and other associations. There is no "restoration" or "reincarnation" of the USSR, nor will there be. These are just phantoms of the past, speculation and speculation. And in this our views with the leadership of Russia, Belarus and other countries fully coincide. Today it is necessary to overcome the fears of the word "union" and the notorious "advance of the empire." It is important that V. Putin wrote about this in his article in Izvestia. The North Atlantic integration within the framework of NAFTA also consists of three countries - the USA, Canada, and Mexico. But no one talks about the US imperial ambitions.

Some Western experts were quick to say that the Eurasian Union is called upon to become a defense against so-called Chinese economic expansion. Nothing could be farther from the truth than such a statement. On the contrary, the PRC over the past two decades has been a strategic partner of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. We support intensive political dialogue and close economic cooperation. We also closely cooperate in the framework of the SCO and CICA.

At the same time, it is important to add to the principles of Eurasian integration, which I spoke about 17 years ago, a provision on the responsibility of each member state for the sustainability of internal development, the effectiveness of national economic, credit, financial and social policies. This is especially important in view of the experience of overcoming difficulties in the EU economy, an example of which is very useful for us.

Since 2009, we have been conducting a detailed study of all legal issues related to the formation of the Common Economic Space of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia. By the end of this year, relevant agreements will be concluded at the government level.

From January 1, the practical stage of the creation of the Common Economic Space begins. The mechanisms for coordinating the economic policies of the three countries and ensuring the cross-border free movement of services, capital and labor resources, unified legislation will consistently become a reality. National business entities will receive equal access to the infrastructure in each state participating in the SES. In the future, common transport, energy and information systems will be formed. The SES will become a solid basis for a transition to a higher level of integration - the Eurasian Economic Union.

It will be a powerful alliance. The total GDP of the three countries is almost 2 trillion dollars, the industrial potential is estimated at 600 billion dollars, the volume of agricultural output is about 112 billion dollars, and the total consumer market is more than 165 million people.

In the twenty-first century, it is impossible to imagine that the Eurasian Union was established as a successful center of global power, without clearly following global development trends. In the current century, regionalization has become a global trend. In the coming years, the European Union is planning further expansion due to Croatia joining it, and in the future - Serbia, Montenegro and other countries. In East Asia, the largest free trade zone on the planet is being created with the participation of China and the ASEAN countries with coverage of two billion consumers at once. In financial and economic terms, the Persian Gulf region is self-organizing. The integration of the countries of North and South America and Africa is strengthening.

Over the 20 years of sovereign development of the economy of Russia, Kazakhstan and other participants in Eurasian integration have become part of the global economy. Today, an important condition for the modernization of our countries, the creation of knowledge-intensive innovation economies is the active growth of investment and technological cooperation with the United States, the European Union, China, and the countries of the Asia-Pacific economic community.

Important aspects of the design process for a new global security system should also be considered. The goal that was adopted almost a year ago on my insistent initiative of the Astana Declaration of the OSCE Summit was to create a single and indivisible space for Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian security. Therefore, today, a new reading of the idea of ​​Eurasian integration, aspiring far into the future of XXI, and possibly subsequent centuries, is relevant!

Eurasian Union: a strategy for the future

The Eurasian Union is a megaproject commensurate with the complex challenges of the present and the future. It has every chance to become an organic part of the new world architecture, the formation of which began under the influence of the most powerful in the history of the global financial and economic crisis. For this, all participants in Eurasian integration need to have a clear and precise action strategy.

The first. The Eurasian Union should initially be created as a competitive global economic association. We cannot be satisfied either by the narrow perspective of being a collection of countries developing only on the principles of "catching-up modernization", or by fate forever remaining a large peripheral exporter of natural resources for the rest of the world. The world is on the verge of a new technological revolution. Today, Kazakhstan has taken a course of accelerated industrial-innovative development. We are creating a new structure of modern productive forces as the basis for the future national innovation economy. Similar tasks are set in Russia and other CIS countries. Therefore, it is important that our Common Economic Space be a territory of innovation and a powerful technological breakthrough. For this, it is necessary to build a common algorithm for the modernization and innovative development of our countries. I propose to promptly develop and adopt a joint Program of Eurasian innovation and technology cooperation, designed for the future 10-15 years. In this respect, the example of France, Germany and Great Britain, which created the largest international aircraft consortium AIRBUS in 1970, is indicative. Spain joined them later. At the end of the year 2010, AIRBUS significantly outstripped the American companies Boeing and Lockheed in the number of deliveries and orders for new aircraft. The annual income of AIRBUS is close to 30 billion euros. Thousands of 53 work at the company's facilities throughout Europe. Since 2006, the entire AIRBUS shareholding has been owned by the European Aerospace Consortium EADS, which, in turn, is funded by governments and national companies of EU countries. Denmark and Sweden have created a joint innovation center in Skane - the “Medicalon Valley”. Today it is the most powerful cluster in Europe where laboratories, commercial structures, and industrial enterprises are concentrated. It operates 7 science parks, which include 300 various companies, 14 universities, 26 medical clinics. A number of countries are moving in the same way, encouraging the creation of international innovation centers, concluding bilateral agreements on specific aspects of the joint development of new technologies.

The second. The Eurasian Union should be formed as a strong link connecting the Euro-Atlantic and Asian areas of development. In economic terms, we can become a bridge connecting the dynamic economies of the European Union, East, Southeast and South Asia. Today, the project of the international transport automobile corridor "Western Europe - Western China" is being implemented. Over time, a modern transport and logistics system will be built along this route, which will ensure a reduction in the delivery time of goods to the European and Chinese markets by more than 3,5 times. Of course, the creation of a trans-Eurasian high-speed railway in the future seems promising. We are mutually beneficial in expanding cooperation between the Common Economic Space with the European Union, People’s Republic of China, Japan, and India.

Third. The Eurasian Union should be formed as a self-sufficient regional financial association, which will be part of a new global monetary and financial system. As the experience of the European Union shows, the creation of a common payment system, and then a single currency, is a natural stage of integration. In modern conditions this process should also take into account the trends developing as a result of the global crisis. No matter how much the EU and the Eurozone are criticized today, they show their own vitality and strong resistance to crises. We see the strong support provided by the EU to those countries that are in a difficult position. Three years ago, I proposed to start working on the establishment of a Eurasian supranational unit of account (ЕНРЕ) as a fundamental principle for a strong regional reserve currency. Now, given the likelihood of a new wave of global recession with even more serious consequences, this idea is not just relevant, it requires practical solutions. I would like to especially note that the creation of a monetary union within the CES is the Rubicon, having overcome that, we will come close to a new level of integration close to the current state of the European Union.

Our main task is to convince in practice our neighbors of the importance and viability of our union. Then we can become much more than three states.

Fourth. Geo-economic, and in the long-term geopolitical, maturity of Eurasian integration should go on an evolutionary and voluntary way. No form of artificial acceleration and pushing individual countries towards it is unacceptable. Let's not forget that the single European market has been created for almost 40 years. Today the platform of Eurasian integration is wide enough. It includes different in form, goals and objectives intergovernmental associations: CIS, EurAsEC, CSTO, Customs Union - CES of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia and others. The emergence of other structures is also possible. For example, I remain a supporter of the creation of the Central Asian Union. I see in it, above all, tremendous opportunities for jointly solving problems and leveling the levels of social and economic development of all countries in the region. This would help improve the well-being of all citizens of Central Asian countries and help solve the complex problems of the region.

Participation in various regional organizations helps each state to choose the most optimal way of integration. Therefore, it is important to build the capacity of all Eurasian associations, gradually promoting the convergence of their formats and content. The fifth. The creation of a Eurasian Union is possible only with broad public support. It is quite natural that now in our countries there are also their own “Eurasian optimists” and “Eurasian skeptics”. The controversy between them only helps to see and consistently eliminate the costs of the integration process.

I think that already in the near future their debates will be conducted from the rostrum of the Eurasian Assembly - a supranational structure uniting the parliamentarians of our countries.

At the same time, it is important to strengthen the national vertical of Eurasian integration. It is about expanding the number of Eurasian public associations. For example, on the basis of the EurAsEC Business Council, you can create a Eurasian Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. In the format of the three countries of the Customs Union it is advisable to create a Eurasian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Their offices could be located in Astana. We must begin work on the creation of the Eurasia-24 24-hour news channel. This is important from the point of view of objectively and fully informing the citizens of our countries about the benefits and the course of integration.

I propose to place the executive bodies of the Eurasian Economic Space in Astana, a city located in the geographical center of the Eurasian sub continent. There are no ambitions here. This would be a serious burden for us. And at the same time, it would be a fair tribute of gratitude to Kazakhstan as the initiator of the idea of ​​Eurasian integration. The presence of the central office in Kazakhstan will relieve the new integration association from suspicions that exist both within our countries and outside our association. This will cause great confidence in our organization, which is taking its first steps. It was precisely this that dictated in time our decision to place the headquarters of the CIS in Minsk. It is not by chance that the headquarters of the European Union is located in Brussels.

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At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, the idea of ​​Eurasian integration acquires the real features of the Common Economic Space. It proved its historical perspective as a sure way to the prosperity and well-being of our countries and peoples. Key policy decisions made. It is necessary to solve a lot of large-scale tasks in order to create an economically powerful, stable and beneficial to all Eurasian Union. This is our common strategic goal!
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