Economic cooperation between the EU and Eurasian Economic Union

Deep, comprehensive, long-term economic cooperation between the EU, the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), and their neighbors was the focus of the pilot phase of an IIASA project that concluded in 2016. The project, coordinated by the Advanced Systems Analysis Program, brought together an international group of economists, modelers, and other experts for constructive dialogue on the multiple facets of how such cooperation might work.

Relations between the EU and Russia would need to be much improved for the enhanced EU-EAEU economic cooperation to become a realistic proposition. However, setting aside the present political tensions, the IIASA project Challenges and Opportunities of Economic Integration within a wider European and Eurasian Space takes the standpoint that all sides would benefit from “Lisbon-to-Vladivostok” economic cooperation. To prepare for this, the project has brought together officials and experts to have a constructive dialogue about the opportunities and challenges of any economic partnership.

Many dimensions need to be considered, ranging from trade in goods and services to the free movement of capital and people, including facilitating visas and residence permits, the development of trans-border transport infrastructure, revised regulations for intellectual property rights, government procurement, and policies for state-owned companies.

The project identified several key facets that should be considered, including trade regimes and extending the deal beyond a traditional free-trade area; energy security; transport and infrastructure; and the mobility of people. Any research on this topic must go beyond estimating short-term, direct trade effects and extend to long-term, indirect effects, the project participants concluded. Especially those related to “non-tariff barriers”—such as sanitary or veterinary regulations and customs administration. These can have significant economic impacts and implications.

There is a fundamental reciprocal interest in energy security for the EU and EAEU. For the EU, this means supply security (source security, transit security, and fair and predictable prices); for Kazakhstan and Russia it is demand security (financial and economic security, and fair and predictable prices); and for transit countries it is the stability of revenues and supplies.

Transport networks (both road and railway) should be further developed in the near future, and the potential for common electric power markets, pipeline systems, and trans-continental fiber-optic links should also be explored. Adequate regulatory frameworks, security, and investments are key for both transport and infrastructure.

To ensure the mobility of business people, experts, and professionals, efficient visa and residence permit procedures are needed, along with the mutual recognition of qualifications. These steps can eventually lead to a visa-free regime with large-scale academic exchanges. However, the project participants do caution against prematurely raising the issue of the labor migration in the EU-EAEU context.

Another important topic discussed by project experts was the future of trade and economic relations between the EU, the EAEU, and Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia—three states that have already concluded deep and comprehensive free trade agreements with the EU. The development of EU-EAEU relations will require constructive negotiations on a fair trade policy between Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and the EAEU, with the participation of the EU to ensure the compatibility of the EU-EAEU cooperation deals.


[1] Vinokurov E, Balás P, Emerson M, Havlik P, Pereboev V, Rovenskaya E, Stepanova A, Kofner J, et al. (2016). Challenges and Opportunities of Economic Integration within a Wider European and Eurasian Space. Synthesis Report. In: Challenges and Opportunities of Economic Integration within a Wider European and Eurasian Space, IIASA, Laxenburg.