Paper tiger or game-changer? Challenges of and opportunities for EU engagement with the Eurasian Economic Union
The Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) started work on 1 January 2015. Considered as Russia’s response to the EU’s Eastern Partnership (EaP), it has been almost ignored in Brussels. However, with the Ukraine crisis and the deteriorating relations with Moscow, some European leaders have begun to reconsider Putin’s proposal for a region-to- region engagement. This paper tries to analyse under which conditions this could represent a long-term solution for a new European order. First, it is argued that the EEU is still far from being a credible international interlocutor. Second, Russia’s commitment to international trade rules and liberalization is questioned, whereas its geopolitical objectives seem predominant. EU engagement with the EEU in Ukraine would mean, in the short term, legitimizing Russia’s vision of a ‘bipolar Europe’ divided in spheres of influence. In the long run, prospects for inter-regional cooperation remain open, but the way to go is long and full of obstacles.