Berlin, 26 November 2019: The DOC invited Bruno Maçães, author of the bestselling book “The Dawn of Eurasia” and former Europe Minister of Portugal, to speak on the rise of Eurasia in the context of the launch of the DOC’s new project, the Eurasian Integration Index Initiative.
Maçães discussed the rise of Eurasia as a concept in international relations, a concept that is perceived differently within Europe, Russia, and China. The term “Eurasia”, according to Maçães, is only hesitantly used in the EU, due to a fear in Brussels that European identity be absorbed into a greater unit, spanning the entire region of Eurasia. This fear, Maçães noted, is not equally represented in the other important actors in this region. However, the EU, like these other actors, does view Eurasia as the region of the future. Europe displays a certain reticence though, when it comes to discussing Eurasian integration with actors of differing political models, namely China and Russia.
Macaes argues that the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative is really a move towards greater Eurasian integration. China imagines the existence of a large market, like that of the EU, on its doorstep allowing it access to Singaporean and Japanese technologies, Russian and Middle Eastern energy resources, and markets in South-East Asia, India and Europe. In light of the US-China trade war, China knows it needs to turn elsewhere to continue its growth, realizing that Eurasia is its “natural area of development”.
Russia has seen the most interesting debate regarding the concept of Eurasia. Putin sees the concept as embodying a large market from Lisbon to Vladivostok, a rather narrow and European definition of Eurasia. The issue that Maçães identifies in this definition is the propagation of European civilization, thus pitting against other civilisations, most notably Islam. The Eurasian Economic Union focuses on a smaller region in the heartland of the super continent, encompassing some of the post-Soviet space. Maçães elucidates the newest, albeit shifting, concept of Eurasia in Russia as being that of Greater Eurasia, spanning from Lisbon to Shanghai, or Jakarta. This is evident in the Eurasian Economic Union’s signing of deals with countries in the wider region rather than the strengthening of ties amongst its founding members.
Bruno Maçães emphasises that the importance of Eurasia lies in answering questions relating to the future of the global order – what shape will Eurasia take? Where does Europe fit into the picture – on the side of the US in a new Cold War, or moving closer to Russia and China? Where does Russia fit in? How are the relations between Russia and China going to develop? And what about India?
Maçães states that Eurasia is an economic unit, thus making it impossible to ignore. Economic integration in this unit will only deepen, due to a large number of compatibilities across the region. While transatlantic trade wanes, Eurasian trade is becoming ever more important. The Eurasian region encompasses two smaller regions of energy consumption, Europe and Asia, and one central region of energy production, which includes Russia, the Arctic, the Caucasus and the Middle East. The complementarities that exist in this super region don’t similarly exist between the US and Europe, since they have specialised in essentially the same things.
In closing, Maçães posed the question of whether the existence of differing political models will hamper the progress of integration. What will come out on top – political disintegration or economic integration?
Following Maçães’s talk, senior researcher at the DOC, Behrooz Gharleghi, presented the DOC’s newest project, an attempt to chart the levels of integration in Eurasia — the Eurasian Integration Index Initiative. The initiative is a composite index comprising five indicators of real integration amongst the countries measured: institutional, social, trade and investment, monetary and macroeconomic, and infrastructural integration. Preliminary findings already show that China possessed a huge trade share in the region in 2016 in comparison with 2001, evidence of China’s drive for greater Eurasian integration.
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