The EU, the EAEU and OBOR: Competitive or Complementary Regional Initiatives? (Guest Talk by Ian Bond)
The following guest talk was held at the Institute of East European Studies at the Freie University (FU) Berlin. Prof Klaus Segbers, chair holder of the department for politics at the Institute for East European Studies and the director of the Center for Global Politics, thanked the University Consortium for giving the opportunity to invite Mr Ian Bond. Additionally, he was grateful for the support of the Institute of East European Studies at the FU Belin. Last but not least, he highly welcomed the audience which was comprised of Master and PhD students.
Ian Bond, the director of foreign policy at the Centre for European Reform, held an interesting talk about the relationship between the European Union (EU), Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and One Belt One Road (OBOR). These are three key integration projects in the Eurasian area that are designed by different power structures. These projects overlap in their geographical coverage which “would be a recipe for competition and confrontation”, according to Mr Bond. He organised his talk in two parts. First, he gave an overview regarding the origins and differences of the institutions. As he assumed that most of the students were familiar with the structures of the EU, Mr Bond concluded that the EU is at “heart a peace project to prevent the emergence of devastating conflicts”. Furthermore, he elaborated about the EAEU. Its organisational structure is inspired by the EU. Unlike the EU, the EAEU’s purpose is limited to economic issues. The OBOR is more different than the two organisations mentioned above. It has no rules, no obligations, and no formal membership whatsoever.
Second, he analysed why it would be valuable that the EU develops relations with OBOR and EAEU, despite risks and problems “that are not going to vanish overnight”. On the one hand, the EU has more reasons to worry about the EAEU regarding geopolitical aims of Russia. However, he argued that the EU can help to make trade easier across the Eurasian landmass. For example, supporting the EAEU on a technical level would help all EAEU members. On the other hand, the incentives for co-operation with China are more obvious. Both are on the same page regarding the benefits of openness for Central Asia and Caucasus.
In his final point, Mr Bond concluded that “thanks to Donald Trump, Beijing and Brussels now find themselves on the same side in fighting against the protectionist instincts of the American President. Trump does not understand modern trade patterns”. Mr Bond ended his talk with the sentence that it is an irony “that a club for democracies may end up working with the most authoritarian Chinese leader since Mao to defend free trade against an American president”. After his talk Mr Bond answered tricky but interesting questions regarding EU, EAEU and OBOR. For example, what differences or similarities the EU, EAEU and OBOR share; why is OBOR an institution, whether the different architectural structure of these organisations give a preponderance of a hegemon in two of them, or what is the national interest of Russia in the EAEU?