At the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council held on May 21, 2021, the heads of states of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) member countries came together. Nursultan Nazarbayev who is the Honorary President of the European Economic Community and the Founding President of the Republic of Kazakhstan also attended the summit as the guest of honor. President of Cuba and Uzbekistan also took part in observer status at the meeting.
The main topics of the meeting agenda are as follows:
- Integration issues
- Implementation of the decisions dated December 11, 2020 considering the determination of common prices and tariffs in the natural gas market
- Determining common tariffs for natural gas transportation
- Cooperating in the production of drugs and vaccines against the COVID-19 epidemic
Uzbekistan has been in observer status in EAEU since December 2020. In this sense, Shevket Mirziyoyev who is President of Uzbekistan stated that we interacted with the EAEU and established a connection with the Eurasian Economic Commission. Mirziyoyev point out that there is a significant potential for the development of commercial relations between the member states and he emphasized that the obstacles in commercial relations should be removed, emphasizing the importance of planned action and stated that regulatory measures should be taken in non-tariff practices. In this context, the Uzbek leader stated that we were ready to make the required contributions.
In addition, the President of Uzbekistan expressed that the increase of inter-regional cooperation, especially industrial relations, will positively reflect on the economies of all actors and will enable them to develop third country markets. In addition, the Uzbek leader emphasized the potential in the real sector and highlighted the importance of food security. Moreover, Mirziyoyev stated that we consider participating in digitization steps within the EAEU, including the tax and customs administration. For this reason, the President of Uzbekistan stated that matters consulted within the EAEU, should turn into concrete results.
Stating that Uzbekistan is ready to remove trade barriers for an effective integration with EAEU, Mirziyoyev touched on the need to vaccinate Uzbek citizens regarding the control of the Covid-19 outbreak. In addition, he stated that air and railway transportation services should be continued with EAEU countries.
As it will be remembered, on December 11, 2020, Uzbekistan was unanimously decided to join the EAEU as an observer country, and it has been in this status within the EAEU since the aforementioned date. At the summit held on 21 May 2021, the Uzbek leader gave the message that they will continue to take steps towards integration.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that EAEU member states have approved the outline of macroeconomic policy for 2021-2022 period. The document prepared includes initiatives such as establishing a common market and removing obstacles to the flow of goods and services. Stating that the integration mechanisms should be as efficient as possible, Putin drew attention to the need to develop commercial relations and increase industrial cooperation.
It is known that among the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Nazarbayev was the first name that put forward the idea of ensuring integration in Eurasia. The President of Kazakhstan of the period announced the “Eurasian Union of States Project” at Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1994. However, Nazarbayev’s proposal did not receive enough attention in the period in question. As a matter of fact, the establishment of EAEU took place in 2015.
In short, the foundation of the union was laid in 1994. Therefore, it has been observed that the member states gradually regulated their economic development and market systems during the period until 2015. However, the situation of Uzbekistan is slightly different. The prudent domestic policy followed in the period of Islam Karimov also reflected on the country’s monetary policies. Therefore, it is not easy for Uzbekistan to become a full member in the short term. There are substantial steps to be taken by the Tashkent administration towards integration. However, it should be noted that the reforms made during the Mirziyoyev period are outstanding developments on the way to membership. So, liberalization of the markets should continue; however, it should be predicted that “social shocks” may be experienced in case of haste. Because social shocks have the risk of triggering political crises. This may reflect negatively on Tashkent’s relations with regional capitals.
On the other hand, it is clear that Russia has been going through difficult geopolitical and economical situations for the last five years. The situation created by the annexation of Crimea against international law and the rising tension in Ukraine cause the West to impose sanctions on Russia. In this environment, the rational thing for Uzbekistan is that it should not be in a hurry at the point of full membership to the EAEU. Moreover, the geopolitical changes in the Eurasian region should not be ignored.
Based on all this information, Uzbekistan will not become a member of EAEU in the near future; but it can be argued that it will maintain its observer status. Because Russia cares about Central Asia in the sense of military and economic. For example, on April 10, 2021, Russian investors decided to implement 33 projects worth $ 2.2 billion in Uzbekistan. In this context, 21 agreements worth 128 million dollars were signed between Russian and Uzbek representatives. Moreover, there are millions of Uzbek immigrants in Russia. This is a critical factor that Tashkent takes into account during its relations with Moscow and the EAEU.
Considering the Military Strategic Cooperation Agreement signed between Uzbekistan and Russia in 2021, it is important for Tashkent to maintain the normal course of relations with Moscow. Therefore, Uzbekistan will continue its presence in EAEU as an observer. This is the rational option.
 “Россия инвестирует в Узбекистан несколько миллиардов долларов”, Rossaprimavera, https://rossaprimavera.ru/news/3cf44b76, (Date of Accession: 21.05.2021).