An article “Tajikistan Mulls EEU Membership, Feels Pull of Russia” posted on EurasiaNet.org’s website notes that many Tajiks oppose economic integration with Russia
Abdufattoh Ghoib, the head of Tajikistan’s Customs Service, announced on July 19, that the Tajik government was considering making an application to enter the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU).
Ghoib’s declaration followed an announcement from Leonid Slutsky, the Russian State Duma member overseeing Eurasian integration, in which he stated that Tajikistan would likely apply for EAEU membership in 2017.
Meanwhile, the article notes that if Tajikistan joins the EAEU, Tajikistan will be entrenched further into the Russian sphere of influence. From a purely economic standpoint, Tajikistan’s dependence on remittance revenues from guest workers living in Russia makes EAEU integration a natural step. Yet deeper integration with Russia has been surprisingly controversial in Tajikistan.
Even though Tajikistan is economically beholden to Moscow, a sizable minority of Tajiks is opposed to EEU accession. In addition, some Tajik military officers are angered by Russia’s lack of consultation with Tajik officials on important military-base activities and crimes perpetrated by servicemen of the Russian military base deployed in Tajikistan, according to the article.
Although Russia and Tajikistan have been allies since Tajikistan’s creation as an independent state in 1991, many Tajiks fear that deeper economic integration with Russia will stymie Tajikistan’s long-term economic development for two reasons, the article says.
First, some Tajik business elites fear that EAEU accession will damage Dushanbe’s economic and diplomatic relationships with non-EAEU actors. In particular, China and other important secondary trade partners, like Qatar and Iran, could view Tajikistan as a Russian client state if it joins the EAEU. This perception could cause vital foreign investors to scale back their capital provisions to the Tajik economy.
Second, economic crises in the EAEU’s two largest countries, Russia and Kazakhstan, have reduced public support for Eurasian integration.
Tajikistan’s diminished enthusiasm for the EAEU reportedly can be demonstrated by a decline in Tajik labor migration to Russia. According to a statement by Tajik Minister of Labor, Migration, and Employment Sumangul Taghoyzoda, the number of migrant workers leaving Tajikistan decreased by 8% during the first half of the 2016 calendar year.
Anti-immigration sentiments in Russia, the declining value of the Tajik currency, and tighter visa restrictions for non-EAEU migrants played a major role in this decline.
Nevertheless, as Carnegie Endowment for International Peace fellow Paul Stronski notes, the steepness of the decline in Tajik migration to Russia can be at least partially explained by a sizable number of Tajiks returning home by choice, the article says.
As economic prospects for Tajik workers in Russia decline, many Tajiks have concluded that the negative attributes of life as a guest worker in Russia outweigh the economic opportunities.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU or EEU) is an economic union of states located primarily in northern Eurasia. A treaty aiming at the establishment of the EAEU was signed on May 29, 2014 by the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and came into effect on January 1, 2015. Treaties aiming at Armenia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Eurasian Economic Union were signed on October 9, 2014 and December 23, respectively. Armenia’s accession treaty came into effect on January 2, 2015. Kyrgyzstan’s accession treaty came into effect on August 6, 2015. It participated in the EAEU from the day of its establishment as an acceding state.
The Eurasian Economic Union has an integrated single market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over $4 trillion (PPP). The EAEU introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common transport, agriculture and energy policies, with provisions for a single currency and greater integration in the future. The union operates through supranational and intergovernmental institutions. The Supreme Eurasian Economic Council is the “Supreme Body” of the Union, consisting of the Heads of the Member States. The other supranational institutions are the Eurasian Commission (the executive body), the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council (consisting of the Prime Ministers of member states) and the Court of the EAEU (the judicial body). (Asia-Plus/Business World Magazine)
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