70% of Russians support Eurasian Economic Union
By Vestnik Kavkaza
Yesterday the VCIOM survey on the attitude of Russian citizens toward the Eurasian Economic Union was presented in Moscow. According to the survey, 70% of Russian citizens view positively the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. It should be noted that the survey was the first in two years that reflected the position of Russian society toward the integration processes which are going on in the Eurasian economic space. Yulia Yakusheva, the director of the political scientific center “North-South,” commented on tge results of the survey for Vestnik Kavkaza
- What aspects of the Eurasian Union’s activity were touched on by the survey?
- The survey didn’t ask the respondents whether they are aware of the processes in post-Soviet space or what the essence of Eurasian integration is. However, it is clear that Russian citizens view the cooperation between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus positively. That’s why the percentage is high – 70%. The VCIOM considered the ages of the respondents. And we can see that the older generation supports the idea more than younger people. People aged 18-24 showed less support. The results are predictable, as the older generation often misses the USSR and cooperation with the post-Soviet states is considered to be a revival of the social model, the political model which used to exist in the Soviet Union. Of course, young people demand more serious motives which will determine the level of their support of the integration processes in Eurasia. I think it means we need to work with the younger group, first of all in the information sphere.
Moreover, the survey touched on the issue of a possible capital of the Eurasian Economic Union. The question was: “The President of Kazakhstan suggested making Yekaterinburg or Astana the capital of the Eurasian Union.” The majority of the Russians supported Yekaterinburg, Moscow took second place, and Astana is only in third place. We see that Russian citizens want the capital of the Eurasian Union to be in Russia.
I think the most interesting aspect of the survey is about extension of the Eurasian Economic Union. Respondents chose a country of the post-Soviet space which could be a potential member of the Eurasian Union and its membership would bring maximum benefits to the Union. It is interesting that Armenia took first place. It is explainable, as Armenia is preparing for accession to the Eurasian Union. It seems Russian citizens orient toward the information space, toward the information that Armenia is ready to join the organization. Azerbaijan is in second place. And it's a surprise, as Azerbaijan hasn’t agreed to join the Eurasian Union. As you know, at the moment Azerbaijan is considering various forms of cooperation with the Union, but nobody speaks about its membership. It means Russian citizens view positively Azerbaijan as a member of the Eurasian Union, because it is the most developed country in the region. Ukraine got only 10% of support and turned out to be lower than Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in the rating of potential members. It seems the information space influences the attitude. Mass media messages show that Ukraine is aimed at Europe in its foreign policy and doesn’t plan to join the EaEU.
- Have similar surveys been conducted in other countries participating in the process?
- I have no information on results in Belarus. I know that Kazakhstan conducts many such surveys. They were not always organized by social structures, but we can sum up certain results. In Kazakhstan common citizens, experts, and analysts follow development of integration processes in the Eurasian space attentively, as they believe that establishment of the EaEU is crucial for their foreign policy. Results of their surveys are similar to the Russian one. The level of support for the EaEU in Kazakhstan is 55-85%. 55% were the results of a recent survey which was conducted on the internet. It means that the level of support for integration processes among users of the internet is not high. 85% were the results of the KISI survey (Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic), it really reflects attitudes in the society. In Kazakhstan a question on awareness of the EaEU’s activity was asked. 85% of Kazakhstan citizens know what the EaEU is. The high level of support of integration processes is connected with economic prospects.
However, 7% of Kazakhstan's citizens are afraid of political dependence on Russia. I think this is connected with the lack of information on the EaEU, even in the expert community. Nobody emphasizes that all sides will have equal rights and powers in the Union, the countries will have an equal number of votes in making decisions. There is no sense in thinking about Russia’s dominance. Moreover, there will be no political institutes in the EaEU. This is an economic union, in which the interests of all participants will be considered.
- Has a survey been conducted in Armenia?
- Yes, it has. I don’t know whether the survey was held last month. According to my information, 86% of Armenian citizens support joining the EaEU. We can say that public opinion in Armenia is pro-Russian and pro-Eurasian.
- One of the advantages of such a space is an opportunity to travel within the space freely. Are such questions included in the survey?
- Unfortunately, the survey didn’t focus on the advantages which Russian citizens could get after establishment of the EaEU. Probably an opportunity to work in Belarus and Kazakhstan was mentioned there, but the issue is not covered. According to the survey, the question is important for Kazakhstan – about 22% of respondents positively view the opportunity to work in Russia and free movement of goods, services, capital and labor force.