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4 Oct, 2007 02:54

New customs union shaping up in Central Asia?

Tajikistan's capital Dushanbe is about to play host to three international organisations in Central Asia.

The Commonwealth of Independent States, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, and the Eurasian Economic Community, all came into being following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

15 years after the collapse of the USSR, the post-Soviet space is packed with all sorts of new abbreviations.

Some of these organizations stem from a political agenda, others pursue economic interests, hardly any of them has proved to be as successful as they had hoped for.

The CIS was created in 1991 and unites  most of the former Soviet republics. It was first regarded as a substitute for the USSR, although its original goal, a common economic space, was never fulfilled. The main obstacle to its development is the lack of political will among some of its members.

State officials like to use this platform for face-to-face meetings rather than round-tables.

For the past decade the post-Soviet area has been shaken with numerous regional conflicts, revolutions and even civil war. And if some of them were resolved, others have been frozen for years.

Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Armenia are now united in a military coalition – the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Its aim – to protect sovereignty of the states, that includes countering terrorism and drug trafficking.

“During the operation that was aimed to counter drug-trafficking from Afghanistan, and thanks to the joint efforts of the CSTO member states, we confiscated 10 tons of heroine, and 1,200 tons of chemical substances needed for the production of drugs” says Nikolay Bordyuzha, CSTO Secretary General.

CSTO members regularly conduct military exercises.

The organization is also planning to establish its own rescue forces, antiterrorist and peacekeeping units.

The same states except for Armenia are members of the Eurasian Economic Community, or EurAsEC.

It is the only group in the region that exclusively deals with economic and social issues.

The main goals are to create a customs union and a common economic space.

But seven years after its establishment,  progress is slow. EurAsEC ‘s Secretary General says there are many obstacles.

“The states are very careful.”  says Grigory Rapota, EurAsEC Secretary General.

Some countries fear that further integration might limit their autonomy and interfere with domestic policies, but there is some progress, he says.

“Three documents are going to be signed in Dushanbe creating the judicial basis for the Customs Union. It will take around three years” adds Rapota.

So far, a custom’s union is planned between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.Other countries will join when they are able to meet the necessary conditions. If successful, the next stage will be a  common economic area.