Eurasianet says that while sending his New Year’s greetings to his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko, Russia President Vladimir Putin took time to point out that this was a year for enhancing integration in not just the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and CIS, but also the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) military alliance. 

The merging of CIS and EAEU agendas reportedly looks striking, since the former has a slightly wider composition and includes countries like Azerbaijan, Moldova, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.  Turkmenistan hangs around on the fringes of the CIS as an associate member.

Out of that complement, Uzbekistan is the country the EAEU would be most eager to bring into the fold.  By acquiring observer status within the bloc last month, Tashkent took a baby step toward accession, according to Eurasianet. 

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that 2021 will be devoted to ensuring that his country speeds up efforts to harmonize technical norms and standards with those of the EAEU.  But Mirziyoyev noted in the same speech, which he delivered to a joint session of parliament on December 29, that this would also be the year in which Uzbekistan boosts its work on gaining admission to the World Trade Organization and improves engagement with the European Union.

The aspiration in the EAEU is to increasingly negotiate with other partners as a united front. India is one important objective. 

Mikhail Cherekayev, deputy director of the trade police department of the Eurasian Economic Commission, or EEC, the EAEU’s permanent regulatory body, said that the coming six months will see negotiations with New Delhi on creating a free trade zone between India and the trading bloc. Trade between India and the EAEU in the first three quarters of 2020 reached US$9 billion, but the bloc sees potential for more.

One important strand of integration that has now been implemented is the provision of bloc-wide access to pensions, which came into effect on January 12.  This means that an expatriate laborer who has worked and paid taxes in another member state will now be eligible for a regular pension from that country’s government, immaterial of whether they subsequently relocate back to their home country. With the amount of labor migration that happens across the EAEU, most notably in the direction of Russia, this will be a major boon to people who have labored for years in a country far from home.