When Choosing Means Losing: The Eastern Partners, the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union

Study 10-03-2015

The six countries in the EU's Eastern Partnership are sandwiched between two large, potent trading blocs: the EU to the west, and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) to the east. Most of the six have chosen to pursue a deeper alliance with one or the other bloc – a tough choice, reflecting both political and economic factors. Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine signed Association Agreements with the EU on 27 June 2014. Armenia and Belarus chose to accede to the Eurasian Economic Union (belatedly, in the case of Armenia). For all these countries, a choice for East or West has meant a loss: a loss of trade policy sovereignty – and likely the growth that comes with open trade policies – for some; a loss of the vital and once-fluid exchanges with the EAEU for the others. The trade and economic separation between the EU and EAEU has not aided the Eastern partners. In fact, the division is not simply a commercial one: it has been drawn – and deepened – by political and geopolitical considerations. But from a purely trade perspective, all the partners – the countries choosing one or another alliance, as well as the dozens composing the EU and EEAU – would benefit from a new and more constructive approach.