Category Archives: Eurasian Union

EU parliament’s political families meet with Chinese Communist Party


Xie Duo from the Central Bank of China believes the euro is stable (Photo: EUobserver)

euobserver.com | Nov 9, 2011

By Philip Ebels

BRUSSELS – A three-day forum of political heavyweights from the EU and China ended on Wednesday with kind words at a half-hour press conference.

The EU-China High-Level Group, the second of its kind after a first encounter in Beijing last year, brought together the leaders of the big European political families and representatives of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

“We discussed EU-China co-operation, social development and reforms, the construction of democracy and legal systems, sustainable development, and global economic governance,” said MEP Reinhard Buetikofer of the Greens, who chaired the meeting.

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The discussions were held in “a spirit of co-operation”, accoring to MEP Veronique De Keyser of the Socialist group in the parliament.

“Participants from both sides understand that only with constructive dialogue, mutual trust and tolerance can we enhance understanding, avoid misjudgement and lay a solid foundation for our partnership,” said Li Jinjun, deputy minister of the central committee of the CPC.

“To us Europeans, the forum has been a success. There is an evolution in the quality and the openness of the speeches. It is the liberty of the tone that marks this forum’s success,” said De Keyser.

“We used to just make our statements without there being much debate at all. But this time around, we really had an exchange of views, and I think that is great progress. [The forum] doesn’t lead to any concrete political outcome but it does add to understanding.” said Markus Loening, vice-president of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform party and German commissioner on human rights.

The forum’s busy programme, held nearly entirely behind closed doors, included a meeting with Jerzy Buzek, president of the European parliament, and speeches from several MEPs and EU trade commissioner Karel de Gught and social affairs commissioner Laszlo Andor.

“The EU is committed to help China’s transition towards an open society, support China’s economic and social reforms, and integrate China even further into the world trading system,” said Andor.

Ways in which China might be able to help the EU, however, were not explored as much, according to De Keyser: “We didn’t talk much about how or whether China could contribute to the European bail-out fund, [the European Financial Stability Fund]. That subject wasn’t on the programme.”

True to the spirit of the meetings, Xie Duo, director-general of the financial market department of the People’s Bank of China, said that he trusts the euro will survive the crisis.

“We think that the crisis is temporary. We believe that European governments will find the way out of the crisis. We believe that the euro will be strong and stable. The Central Bank of China supports the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund for their support to the euro currency,” he said.

He further stated that the best way to stimulate the global economy is to stimulate growth at home (see video). “We also face a lot of problems in China. If we can successfully control the inflation in China, if we can successfully transform our economic development model, it will help the world economic recovery.”

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Vladimir Putin wants Soviet-style power bloc to rival EU


Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin Photo: Reuters / Vostock-Photo

Vladimir Putin has said he wants to forge a “Eurasian Union” on the vast swath of territory that used to be the Soviet Union to compete with the European Union and the United States.

Telegraph | Oct 4, 2011

By Andrew Osborn, Moscow

Speaking six months before he reassumes the Russian presidency for the third time, Mr Putin said he wanted to create a global power bloc that would straddle one fifth of the earth’s surface and unite almost 300 million people.

“We have a great inheritance from the Soviet Union,” he wrote in an article extolling the idea in the daily Izvestia newspaper. “We inherited an infrastructure, specialised production facilities, and a common linguistic, scientific and cultural space. It is in our joint interests to use this resource for our development.”

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The Russian prime minister called the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” and is known for revelling in Soviet nostalgia.

He denied his new plan was an attempt to resurrect the Russian-led superpower, insisting that the Eurasian Union would be freer than the Soviet Union and membership would be voluntary. “We are not talking about recreating the USSR,” Mr Putin claimed.

“It would be naive to try to restore or copy what was in the past. But time dictates that we should have closer integration based on values, politics and economics.”

The Soviet Union included 15 different republics which became independent countries after its chaotic collapse in 1991. Three of those countries – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have since become members of the EU and it is unimaginable that they would sign up to the Eurasian Union.

Georgia, a country that lost 20 per cent of its territory in a war against Russia in 2008, would also be highly unlikely to acquiesce. But Mr Putin said an existing kernel of three countries – Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus – were already locked into a new common economic space with shared customs and other rules that would serve as the foundation for the Eurasian Union.

Mr Putin said he expected Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to sign up soon. “We are talking about a model of a powerful supranational union capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world,” he said.

Andrei Okara, a political analyst, said: “Putin does not just see himself as a Russian leader but on a historical and global scale. He wants to make grandiose political moves that will leave their mark on history.”

US troops march on Moscow’s Red Square for Victory Day

The U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment troops march during the Victory Day Parade, which commemorates the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, at the Moscow Red Square, Sunday, May 9, 2010. Troops from the United States, Britain and France joined the Russian armed forces for the Victory Day parade for the first time. Building in background is the Kremlin. AP Photo

“We operate here under directives which emanate from the White House…The substance of the directives under which we operate is that we shall use our grant making power to alter life in the United States such that we can comfortably be merged with the Soviet Union. [the task is to] covertly lower the standard of living, the whole social structure, of America so that we can be merged with all other nations.”

– Rowan Gaither, President of the Ford Foundation to Congressional Reece Committee investigator Norman Dodd, 1954

AP | May 9, 2010

By JIM HEINTZ

MOSCOW — U.S., French and British troops strode across Red Square for the first time Sunday in a Victory Day parade marked both by the usual impressive display of Russia’s military might and by an unusual emphasis on international cooperation.

In recent years, the parade commemorating the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany has been used by Russian leaders to launch veiled criticism of the West, but President Dmitry Medvedev struck a different tone this year.

“Today at this solemn parade, the soldiers of Russia, the states of the CIS and the anti-Hitler coalition march together,” he said in his address to the more than 11,000 soldiers on the vast square. “Only together can we counter present-day threats. Only as good neighbors can we resolve problems of global security in order that the ideals of justice and good triumph in all of the world and that the lives of future generations will be free and happy.”

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Foreign leaders in attendance included German Chancellor Angela Merkel, China’s Hu Jintao, Israeli President Shimon Peres and acting Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski, whose predecessor died last month in a plane crash in western Russia along with many of Poland’s political and military elite.

Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy had been expected to attend, but stayed home in order to be available for possible developments in Europe’s financial crisis.


British soldiers march through Red Square during the Victory Day parade in Moscow on May 9, 2010. Troops from four NATO states marched through Red Square for the first time Sunday as Russia marked victory in World War II with its biggest military parade since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Getty Images

Victory Day, Russia’s most important secular holiday, always sees elaborate observances throughout the country, but this year’s was especially intense, with holiday preparations and parade rehearsals dominating TV news reports for the past week.

Such attention appeared in part to be a tacit acknowledgment that even the youngest World War II veterans are in the last years of their lives.

Some of Medvedev’s address carried that valedictory sentiment, assuring the veterans that recognition of their valor would outlive them.

“Time has great power, but it is weaker than human memory,” he said. “We will never forget the soldiers fighting on the front, the women replacing men in the factories, the children undergoing suffering unthinkable for their age.”

“This war made us a strong nation,” Medvedev said.

The military strength was on clear view. Tanks, armored personnel carriers and lumbering Topol-M intercontinental ballistic missile launchers rumbled across the square, and warplanes and helicopters streaked overhead.

The display included WWII-era T-34 tanks and some military units wore period uniforms.

The U.S., British and French troops each marched in units of about 75. Squads from Poland and Turkmenistan also took part. Parades and other celebrations also took place throughout the country.

But amid the nationwide assertions of strength and pride were violent reminders of the unrest that plagues Russia’s Caucasus republics.

A bomb placed by the side of a road near a Russian military base killed two people in a car Sunday and a sapper was killed when he approached another bomb also in the city of Kaspiisk — where a Victory Day parade bombing in 2002 killed 43 people. A third explosive device was found and disabled Sunday at the entrance to a park in the city of Makhachkala.

Both cities are in Dagestan, which is Chechnya’s eastern neighbor and has been plagued by insurgent violence for more than a decade.

Insurgents have often chosen the holiday to launch terrorist attacks, including the 2004 killing of Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov, who died in a bomb blast while attending a military parade at a stadium.

In the week leading up to Victory Day, Medvedev several times raised Russia’s frequent complaint that other countries denigrate or misconstrue the Soviet Union’s contribution to World War II, in which more than 26 million Soviets are estimated to have died, including more than 8.5 million soldiers.

But he mentioned the issue only in passing on Sunday and the address reflected his aim of reducing Russia’s confrontational image.

Medvedev also used the Victory Day preparations to criticize Josef Stalin, the Soviet dictator whom many supporters credit with leading the Red Army to victory in the war.

Some Moscow museums displayed small posters of Stalin ahead of the holiday and a splinter Communist faction painted his face on a city bus in St. Petersburg, fueling fears that his reputation was being quietly rehabilitated.

Russia’s Red Square parade includes NATO countries for first time

British soldiers of the 2nd Company Battalion Welsh Guards march during the Red Square parade in Moscow, Sunday. Troops from the United States, Britain and France joined the Russian armed forces for the Victory Day parade for the first time. Misha Japaridze/AP

This year’s Red Square parade – which included soldiers from four NATO countries, including the US – was the most elaborate since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost 20 years ago.

CSM | May 9, 2010

By Fred Weir

Soldiers from four NATO countries, including the US, joined about 10,000 Russian troops for a massive military parade across Red Square on Sunday to mark the 65th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

This year’s Red Square parade was the first time foreigners have ever taken part in the march, an annual red banner and hammer-and-sickle festooned event that continues to evoke powerful emotions in the former USSR, which lost 27-million people in World War II.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and about two dozen other high-level foreign guests watched the parade from the same granite viewing stands, next the mausoleum of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, formerly occupied by Communist leaders.

This year’s parade was the most elaborate since the collapse of the Soviet Union almost twenty years ago, featuring almost 200 tanks – including vintage wartime vehicles – mobile howitzers, anti-aircraft rockets, and giant intercontinental missiles rumbling across Red Square’s pink cobblestones, and followed by a thundering flyover by 150 modern warplanes and helicopters.

New weaponry

During the cold war, military parades were closely watched by Western intelligence agencies because they often were employed as a showcase for new weaponry.

The Kremlin didn’t disappoint this year, rolling out six recently-developed hardware systems: the Pantsir-S1 and Buratino anti-aircraft rockets, the Topol-M intercontinental missile, and the Yak-130 air trainer.

Military experts show particular interest in two new attack helicopters that were displayed in public for the first time, the Mi-28 – Russia’s answer to the Apache – and the exciting new Ka-52 gunship.

Despite the sovietesque atmospherics, the main political theme of the event was historic reconciliation between Russia and its former cold war foes.

Medvedev: Peace is ‘still fragile’

“Today, at the military parade, soldiers of Russia, of countries of the former Soviet Union, and of the Allied powers march together, in one column, which is evidence of our common readiness to defend peace,” Mr. Medvedev said in a Red Square address.

“Peace is still fragile and it is our duty to remember that wars do not start in an instant,” he said. “It is only together that we shall be able to counter modern threats.”

Communist and nationalist politicians had denounced the invitation to NATO troops to take part in the parade, but a poll last week by the independent Levada Center in Moscow found that less than a third of Russians agreed with them, while 55 percent viewed the participation of the wartime allies favorably.

Another controversy swirled around a decision by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov to include portraits of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who led the country through World War II, among the publicity materials for the Victory Day celebration.

The Russian government rescinded that decision, and no pictures of Mr. Stalin were visible around Red Square on Sunday, but the furore illustrates the ongoing sensitivity of many unresolved Soviet-era historical disputes in Russia.

The Voice of America quoted the commander of the participating American unit, Capt. Matthew Strand, as saying that the experience of marching in Russia’s Victory Parade raised the level of camaraderie between NATO participants and their Russian counterparts.

Captain Strand told the VOA that his 90-year-old grandfather was a US pilot during the war.

“Every time my grandpa meets a veteran from World War II, even if he doesn’t know him, the second he meets him, they automatically have something in common,” Strand said. “And just by me having a grandfather that was in it, I have something in common with the veterans I meet here in Russia.”

Russian Trade Zone: A Soviet Reunion

Putin: ‘The demise of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

A customs union among Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan could boost trade and further the Kremlin’s dream of reintegrating the economies of the old Soviet Union

businessweek.com | Mar 8, 2010

By Kenjali Tinibai

The inauguration of the Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus customs union at the beginning of this year gave a very visible push to the Kremlin’s long-term goal of economic reintegration of the former Soviet republics.

There has never been any doubt that the Russian government would play the leading role in decision making, whether in a customs union or the in the next step foreseen, a single market that could soon become a reality. Many analysts interpret the Kremlin’s intent as to re-create a kind of modernized Soviet Union, at least at the economic level.

COMMON RULES, HIGHER PRICES

The Kremlin’s initial moves in support of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s goal of a Russian-dominated zone embracing much of the former Soviet Union have been in the economic sphere. A half-dozen states have been drawn into the Russian economic embrace, and now Belarus and Kazakhstan have accepted Moscow’s invitation to begin applying common customs tariffs on the majority of imported goods

It’s early days yet for the customs union. The three countries began applying common tariffs on 1 January, and a few types of products are temporarily exempt. But the impact of the new measures is provoking indignation among consumers in Kazakhstan, who are upset over higher prices for a wide range of goods.

“Why does a new Toyota Camry made in Russia [now] cost 40,000 American dollars when all over the world the price is just 22,000?” one blogger complained on a Kazakh Internet site.

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The prices of imported clothing, leather goods, shoes, and perfumes have risen on the back of higher duties.

Many medicines imported from outside the former Soviet countries are also more expensive now. Customs duties rose by 5 percent on imported insulin, hemoglobin, and some kinds of antibiotics, as well as vitamins. The duty on leather goods went from 5 percent of the cost of the goods to 20 percent, a rise of about $7 per kilogram.

In Kazakhstan you can hear the view that the system of common tariffs is working to strengthen Russia’s positions. Some Russian officials are openly saying that the new tariff setup is based largely on the Russian system. And Moscow’s ambitions go well beyond the customs union now in place. The Russian, Kazakh, and Belarusian leaders have approved documents to establish a “common economic space” on 1 January 2012 – a single market for goods, investment, and labor.

When the three countries’ presidents signed the documents establishing the customs union in November they promised that it would boost trade, make their countries more competitive, and promote investment opportunities. Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, put the combined trade turnover of the three members at $900 billion. Although that is probably an embellishment, as leaders of post-Soviet states often tend to overstate figures relating to intrastate economic schemes, the customs union does have enormous potential, and, as Nazarbaev also declared, it could become a major exporter of oil and grain in the future.

But these benefits may seem rather abstract to many consumers in Kazakhstan who so far are seeing mostly higher prices. Where products from developed countries used to be comparatively inexpensive, many Kazakhs have noted considerable rises in the retail cost of goods imported from outside the union. Some of the loudest complaints concern the price of cars.

On 1 January the customs duty on imported cars rose from 10 percent of the price – the old Kazakh rate – to match the Russian rate of 30 to 35 percent. Behind these measures, some see Russia attempting to give an unfair advantage to its own auto industry products – cars that are uncompetitive on world markets.

The new tariff system could unleash a flood of imports of all sorts, they warn, undermining domestic producers’ market positions and perhaps causing an upturn in inflation. In 2007, Kazakhstan exported about $46 billion worth of goods and services, dominated by hydrocarbons, and imported about $30 billion worth, according to the World Bank.

RUSSIA’S AMBITIONS

At first glance it may seem that domestic producers in Kazakhstan now have a price advantage over imports, because of the higher import duties. The truth is that old marketplace rivals have given way to new ones. The Russian government is the dominant influence over common economic policies in the customs union’s coordinating structures. Kazakh companies may now face a raft of new competition from Russian firms under less than equal conditions.

One Kazakh economic analyst thinks local businesses must get ready for cutthroat competition from Russian imports.

According to Dosym Satpaev, director of the Risk Assessment Group think tank in Amaty, Russian companies are likely to gain the advantage on the Kazakh market over the next several years, thanks to the more competitive products the far larger and comparatively more developed Russian economy can turn out. Meanwhile, he says, the Kazakh economy will continue to be hampered by organizational deficits, quality control, and other problems. Kazakhstan is not yet ready for economic integration of the type Russia is spearheading, he warns.

Economic data alone underline Russia’s leading role in the new customs union and proposed single market. Although the Kazakh economy is one of the largest of the ex-Soviet republics, with a 2008 GDP estimated by the World Bank to be $132 billion, it’s less than a tenth the size of Russia’s.

Coming close on the heels of the launch of the customs union, the victory of a close friend in the Ukrainian presidential election will give new impetus and vigor to the Kremlin’s aim of further asserting its dominance of the post-Soviet economic space.

So far Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have indicated strong interest in joining the customs union, and as for the second-largest economy in the post-Soviet sphere, Ukraine, president-elect Viktor Yanukovych told the British Daily Telegraph that he favored joining the growing Russian-led economic zone. Ukrainian entry into the customs union would shift the regional balance of power strongly toward inner Eurasia, and, particularly if no positive steps toward creating a more liberal political system occur in Russia, the European Union could then expect to face stronger Russian pressure in the center and west of the continent.

Given that the Kremlin is seeking to regain its influence in Eurasia, if Ukraine joins the Russian-led economic zone, the Baltic states and the Central and Eastern European former Warsaw Pact members will take the brunt of that pressure.
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