On 3 September, the DOC hosted a roundtable at its headquarters in Berlin on ‘Eurasian integration scenarios: Motivations and constraints’ in partnership with the German-Kazakh Society. Attendees included representatives of the embassies of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tadzhikistan, Belarus, Mongolia and China, as well as the Bundestag and Berlin’s economic and political circles, local Kazakh and Lithuanian diaspora communities and media.
The keynote speaker was Glenn Diesen from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Discussants were Gaukhar Nurgalieva, Head of Eurasian Studies at SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Markets Studies (IEMS); Bakhytzhan Sarkeev, Partner at the CSI – Center for Strategic Initiatives (Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan); and Michael Quiring, Director at Rödl&Partner, the leading German consulting company. Together the participants discussed incentives and constraints for Eurasian integration in comparison with the Greater Europe initiative.
Glenn Diesen argued that Eurasia as a region has huge geo-economic importance in contexts including strategic industries, transportation corridors and financial instruments. He said the concept of Eurasianism has transformed from a hegemonic and economically backward project to a geoeconomic concept to establish a multipolar and balanced supercontinent that entails a “balance of dependence” among its constituent countries.
He further argued that there is evidence Eurasia can facilitate the connection between East and West especially in terms of transportation and access to markets. However, since the failure of the Greater Europe initiative to integrate Russia into the West, countries in the region are expanding their relations to the East with countries such as China, India, Japan and Iran. The formation of the Eurasian Economic Union, for example, provides incentives of greater market access for non-member states as well as cooperation with other regional initiatives such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the Belt & Road Initiative and the BRICS bloc of major emerging powers.
The rise of China and its capacity to challenge US primacy would make China a key partner for Eurasia. However, while Russia will accept Chinese leadership in the region and competition in Central Asia, it rejects Chinese dominance. Japan and South Korea have importance for Eurasia in terms of technology.
Gaukhar Nurgalieva addressed infrastructure development and regulatory harmonisation as core elements of integration in the region. She also presented a report at the DOC’s Moscow office on ‘Belt and Road in the Eurasian Heartland: Progress, effects, challenges’ covering Chinese activity in Eurasia and Belt & Road challenges
Bakhtyzhan Sarkeyev highlighted the importance of economic and business reforms in countries across the region as a prerequisite of integration. Michael Quiring argued that product standardisation using a single method would facilitate integration.
Participants concluded that Russia is not choosing between East or West, but is rather going for both in the form of Greater Eurasia. The concept of Greater Eurasia should therefore be considered a platform that balances East and West.
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