The past five years have witnessed serious steps towards more integration, connectivity and economic cooperation both within, as well as in between regions of the Eurasian continent.
In 2013 Chinas head of state Xi Jinping announced the revival in the 21st century of the ancient Silk Roads under Beijings epochal «Belt and Road» Initiative (BRI).
A year later, the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia signed a treaty on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), the first truly supranational organization in the post-Soviet space after the fall of the Soviet Union. After the accession of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan it is now second only to the EU in terms of integration depth. Over 50 countries from all over the world have voiced their interest in signing trade deals with the new union.
In 2016 Vladimir Putin and Nursultan Nazarbayev co-proposed a more extensive «Greater Eurasian Partnership» involving the EAEU, the CIS countries, China, India, Iran, and other interested countries and associations of the continent. Since then, the EAEU has been working on the creation of a network of free trade areas in the wider Eurasian space. The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) negotiated free trade areas with Vietnam and Iran (interim). More are planned with Singapore, India, South Korea, Cambodia and Serbia. As part of its conjunction with the Belt&Road Initiative, the EAEU signed a trade and economic cooperation agreement with China in May 2018.
At the same time, Brusselss actions in wider Eurasia seemed less coherent, picking up pace only this year, when significant trade deals were finalized with Vietnam and signed with Japan and Singapore. Then, in September the European External Action Service (EEAS) finally presented a joint communiqué on the EUs strategy for «Connecting Europe and Asia».
India is also interested in playing an important part in the emerging «Eurasian concert». As a major connectivity project it proposes the implementation of the international «North South Transport Corridor» (NSTC). However, New Delhi, it seems, still has no clear cut vision for its engagement in the wider Eurasian continent.
In view of this, the participants of the panel session will discuss the EUs strategy in Eurasia, as well as the challenges and opportunities that more integration, connectivity and economic cooperation in the wider Eurasian space could pose for Europe, in particular with such projects as the Eurasian Economic Union, the Belt and Road Initiative and the North South Transport Corridor.
The results and recommendations of the panel discussion will be published in a short policy paper.