Most citizens approve of EEU, yet the number of those indifferent to it growing, survey says

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BISHKEK (TCA) — A survey of integration preferences among the CIS’ population in 2016 has shown that the Eurasian economic integration is still supported by people in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) member states and their neighboring countries. Overall, the level of support exceeds 60%, according to the findings of the EDB Integration Barometer, a yearly research conducted by Eurasian Development Bank’s (EDB) Centre for Integration Studies. In 2016, 8,500 people from seven CIS countries – Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Tajikistan – took part in the survey.

In Belarus, public support for Eurasian integration increased insignificantly over the year, from 60% to 63%. In other member countries, the population’s support for participation in the EEU declined: from 86% to 81% in Kyrgyzstan, from 80% to 74% in Kazakhstan, from 78% to 69% in Russia, and from 56% to 46% in Armenia. Almost in all above instances the decrease was due to an increase in the number of those who were indifferent, while in Armenia it was also triggered by an increase in the number of negative responses (by 5 percentage points).

“The Eurasian integration’s ‘honeymoon’ has come to an end,” Evgeny Vinokurov, Director of the Centre for Integration Studies, said. “People begin to assess increasingly often the current condition and specific results of integration, and how it influences their lives.”

The experts point out separately to a rather high level of approval of Eurasian integration in Tajikistan – the most realistic candidate for EEU membership. In this country, 68% of respondents said they would support its potential joining the EEU in 2016 (compared to 72% in 2015). This level of support creates comfortable conditions for the potential political decision.

In 2016, the respondents in the EEU member states were asked about their attitudes towards free movements of citizens within the EEU (including labour migration), the expansion of the EEU, the entering into a free trade and investment agreement between the EEU and the EU, the possible introduction of a single currency, and the creation of a common broadcasting company. Over a half of respondents answered positively to almost all questions (excluding the introduction of a single currency, the opinions on which in Armenia and Belarus were different). The most favoured initiatives in the EEU countries are “the permission of free movement of EEU citizens within the union, with the possibility to live, work, study and do business anywhere in the EEU countries” (70-87%), and “the entering into a free trade and investment agreement between the EEU countries and the European Union” (68-82%).

The survey also revealed that in the CIS region, Russia remains the friendliest country as viewed by the respondents from the seven countries under consideration. As before, the highest result for this question was recorded in the Kyrgyz Republic (89%), Tajikistan (82%, despite a decrease by 8 percentage points from the previous year), Belarus (82%), and Kazakhstan (81%). In Armenia, there was a noticeable decline in the perceptions of Russia as a friendly country, from 86% in 2015 to 69% in 2016.

For Russian citizens, the friendliest countries are Belarus (65%), Kazakhstan (51%), China (41%), and Armenia (35%).

Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) is an international financial institution founded by Russia and Kazakhstan in January 2006 with the mission to facilitate the development of market economies, sustainable economic growth, and the expansion of mutual trade and other economic ties in its member states. EDB’s charter capital totals US $7 billion. The member states of the Bank are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan.

Sergey Kwan

TCA