The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) meets at the presidential level on Tuesday in Astana, Kazakhstan. On the table for the Russia-centric bloc — still relatively new since its formation in January 2015 — are two fundamental issues: its internal energy market, and its economic links abroad. The other members, Russia’s allies Kazakhstan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Armenia, are all on board with this agenda of deepening and expanding the Union.
One key priority for Russian President Vladimir Putin — a common EEU oil and gas market — is expected to be in place by 2025. The effort to do the same for a common electricity market is already further along, with a 2019 completion target.
This EEU summit is also expected to coordinate guidelines for economic policy for the remainder of this year and 2017. The bloc members are currently preparing a package of 50 documents, including a new Customs Code, to be signed soon.
Russian news agency TASS wrote that the country leaders may take a decision on setting up a council of heads of governmental agencies in the field of sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the people. Doing so would better coordinate common actions in that area, before any public health crisis hits.
As for external links, preferential trade agreements with Serbia and China are said to be in the works. The EEU already signed a free trade agreement with Vietnam and the upcoming meeting plans to discuss measures to make this agreement operational as soon as possible, said Russian presidential aid Yuri Ushakov. The union is holding similar talks with Israel, and trade officials are exploring the creation of free trade areas with India, Egypt, Iran and ASEAN.
The EEU’s future may be most secure though by partnering with China’s multi-billion Silk Road Economic Belt initiative. This was indeed announced by Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping last May, and more concrete details are expected to come from Tuesday’s summit. In a world where international groupings and agreements have proliferated, a meaningful partnership would make the EEU more powerful, instead of irrelevant. Combined with the Silk Road and the China-centered Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as Putin endorsed on Tuesday, the EEU might even rival the pending U.S.-backed Trans-Pacific Partnership for global economic clout.