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Analysis

Eurasian Economic Union: Between perception and reality

The EAEU is primarily a limited customs union, which managed to harmonise the external customs tariffs, abolished the internal customs borders, and transferred the decision-making about the tariffs to the Union level. However, it is unlikely to achieve higher levels of economic integration, as there are too many disagreements between member countries.

January 9, 2018 - Alexander Libman

The growing religiosity of Kyrgyz youth

The once Soviet-controlled atheist societies like that in Kyrgyzstan, which for 70 years were subject to forced secularisation, have been rediscovering Islam after the collapse of Soviet Union. This is especially true for young people, who are increasingly more religious.

The early morning call to prayer woke Kairat up. He got up with haste, as he was anxious not to be late. He wanted to make it to morning prayer in a community mosque located 700 meters from his home. As he put on his coat and heads out of the house on a chilly, late-November morning, he could not resist the feeling of guilt that he almost overslept. He returned from Bishkek quite late the night before and was very tired.

In Bishkek, Kairat and others were discussing sublime ideas of how Kyrgyzstan’s youth view the country changing by 2030. Their visions could easily be applied to Kairat’s home village of Kolduk in the Issyk-Kul region. “We are living in changing times,” he thought. Back in the Soviet times his village had not had a single mosque and today there are four in the tiny community. He and others believe that the growing religiosity in Kyrgyzstan is an issue that needs to be addressed.

January 2, 2018 - Keneshbek Sainazarov

Playing for high electoral stakes in Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan likes to portray itself as Central Asia’s only democracy – but dog-whistle politics and dirty tricks deployed in the October 2017 presidential election muddied its democratic credentials.

“It’s like a game of poker,” said Medet Tursaliyev, a young man emerging from a polling station in Bishkek, the leafy laidback capital of Kyrgyzstan. “They’re playing all in – for high stakes.”

As Kyrgyzstan went to the polls on October 15th last year, Tursaliyev had hit the nail on the head: it was a high-stakes political battle of a type never witnessed before in Central Asia. His country made history by staging the first ever truly competitive presidential election in a region ruled by strongmen who usually cling to power for decades.

January 2, 2018 - Joanna Lillis

Long live Kim Jong-un: how Russia helps the dictator thrive

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there is an estimated 40,000 North Koreans working in Russia today, with some assessments indicating that this number will continue to grow. Human rights activists describe these workers as modern slaves, whose working conditions are harsh under the pressure to complete preparations for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Kim Jong-un's North Korea is now at the centre of international news with its nuclear tests and reported preparations for more missile launches. Last autumn Kim Jong-un promised to complete his nuclear programme, despite new sanctions imposed by the West. Russia’s Vladimir Putin has rejected US calls for new sanctions on Pyongyang, claiming that it would be a counter-productive “road to nowhere” and may trigger a “global catastrophe”. This statement could be interpreted as an act of solidarity with the North Korean regime, since Putin's friends and senior officials are also under western sanctions.

However, upon closer examination this is not the only explanation. One of the major proposals of the sanctions package against North Korea is to cut off sources of foreign currency, limiting its ability to continue developing its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. This would signify a major shift for Moscow, as it would have to stop employing cheap North Korean labour.

January 2, 2018 - Artem Filatov

Security in Europe with Russia and/or from Russia?

The debate among German foreign policy experts on how to end the crisis with Russia has heated up once again. Yet, many observers continue to neglect the primary determinants of Russian foreign policy, which are rooted in domestic politics and are not going to change any time soon.

The Russian military exercise “Zapad 2017” held on the borders of NATO member states showed a significant increase in Russian forces in the Baltic Sea region. Just like during the Cold War, this exercise had the goal of demonstrating Russia’s military might to the West – the country’s alleged enemy. With the illegal annexation of Crimea as well as the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine, Russia and the West have manoeuvred towards an increasingly militarised confrontation. Moscow’s questioning of the European security order marked the climax of the alienation and antagonisation that started much earlier. With Vladimir Putin’s 2007 speech at the Munich security conference, where he accused the West of systematically countering Russia’s interests in the region, as well as the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, it became clear that Russia is defining its interests in opposition to the West. Russia does not want to be integrated into the West but has the ambition to further integrate former Soviet states into its orbit.

January 2, 2018 - Manfred Huterer

The choice of Serzh Sargsyan

The approaching year might be groundbreaking for Armenia’s political scene, as the country awaits president Serzh Sargsyan’s decision on what to do after his mandate ends in April 2018.

December 22, 2017 - Bartłomiej Krzysztan

The Transnistrian gambit

Over the past few weeks unprecedented progress in the negotiations between the government in Chișinău and the authorities of the breakaway-separatist region of Transnistria has unfolded. The progress has caused modest hope for a breakthrough in this 25-year-long frozen conflict and it should rather be seen as a tool in Vlad Plahotniuc's political game. The oligarch ruling over Moldova cleverly draws on a beneficial international environment and the favourability of Moscow and Tiraspol.

December 21, 2017 - Kamil Całus

Putin 2018: The chronicle of victory foretold

Putin's victory in next year's presidential election is almost certain. Finding a new development model for Russia and fighting poverty are the real issues for the 2018-2024 term. And the strategy is yet to be defined.

December 20, 2017 - Cyrille Bret

A chance for peacekeepers in eastern Ukraine?

The revival of the idea of peacekeepers in Donbas demonstrates the desire of both Russia and Ukraine to reserve some space for diplomatic maneuvers. With such peace initiatives, each party aims to show its commitment to the peaceful resolution of the conflict in Donbas and to blame the other side for negotiations failures. The actual deployment of the UN mission is still unlikely.

December 19, 2017 - Vasyl Mykhailyshyn

Romania’s justice system under threat

Liviu Dragnea, head of Romania’s ruling Social Democrats, is facing allegations of embezzling 24 million euros from EU funds between 2001 and 2012. Despite the massive anti-corruption protests in February 2017, Romania continues to be run by the ruling elite, for the ruling elite.

December 15, 2017 - Maryla Król

France and Eastern Europe: Does Macron have a plan?

Emmanuel Macron wants to embody the return of a dynamic Europe, even if to envisage a multi-speed Europe around a state capable of stimulating a dynamic. To take the lead in this movement, he must show that France is credible on economic matters.

December 13, 2017 - Cyrille Bret and Florent Parmentier

The “Eastern Partnership Plus” is the EU’s failure

The concept of the “Eastern Partnership Plus” seems like an attempt at masking the fact that the entire Eastern Partnership programme has not achieved its goals because it could not do so. The problem of the Eastern Partnership is that its goals are in fact impossible to achieve without eventually granting its members the prospect of EU membership.

December 7, 2017 - Bartek Tesławski

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