Andrey Kushnirenko: "Sanctions stimulated substitution of existing trade flows in favor of CIS countries"

Yesterday marked 25th anniversary of CIS, created for cooperation of former Soviet republics after heads of 11 new independent states have signed the Alma-Ata Declaration. "There was a period of euphoria, when everybody thought that everything will remain the same. There was a period of economic romanticism, when everyone thought that each country will successfully develop independently after integrating into global economic system. Now, on the 25th anniversary, countries clearly realize that they are stronger together," director of the Economic Cooperation Department of CIS Executive Committee Andrey Kushnirenko believes.

- How can you describe current economic cooperation between former Soviet republics, particularly Russia and South Caucasus countries?

- Over the years there were many developments in the relations between Transcaucasian countries and in their contacts with Russia. But current situation is quite stable. Sanctions and response measures, introduced in recent years in relations between Russia and other countries of the West, stimulated substitution of existing trade flows in favor of the CIS countries. We can see significant increase in supply of fruits and vegetables, including from Azerbaijan. There are certain transport, logistics and customs problems, but they are mostly technical, they should be dealt with soon. Сooperation will continue to grow in the future since our market is extremely large.

International transport corridor 'North-South' can become the basis for further expansion of economic relations with Azerbaijan. One of its parts passes through the western coast of Caspian Sea and covers Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran and goes to the countries of South Asia, South-East Asia. It can become a very important element of mutual cooperation. Leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran signed an agreement on August 8 to intensify the construction of this corridor. I think in the coming months we will witness the launch of trains and road links along this direction.

- What can you tell about the develop economic relations with Armenia in the framework of integration structures? 

- We have stable, permanent relations. The fact that Armenia joined Eurasian Economic Union helped their development. We don't have borders, but the removal of export and import customs duties has played a positive role. Moreover, right now some of the EEU institutions are headed by representatives of Armenia. Karine Minasyan is the Eurasian Economic Commission Minister, he oversees domestic markets, informatization, ICT. She deals with the functioning of internal markets without barriers and restrictions, as well as with electronic commerce. 

- Will Azerbaijan also join the EEU?

- There's always a chance. However, so far we can only talk about intensification of cooperation rather than full fledged membership. It's a difficult process. Each agreement implies the balance of rights and obligations. But there are many other channels besides membership. It can be an agreement on preferential relations between Azerbaijan and the Eurasian Union. But membership is issue of a more distant future.

***

Speaking about the CIS countries in general, Kushnirenko stressed that they managed to maintain and develop a common space in the fields, which absolutely require to mutual cooperation: "Cooperation in the fields of communication, transport, energy, science, technologies, agriculture, substitution of trade flows from the world market by flows within our countries, all of this is developing intensively. This list goes on." At the same time, according to Kushnirenko, CIS countries also failed to achieve multilateral cooperation in the industrial field: "Bilateral ties are still maintained and developed, but multilateral regional cooperation that existed in the Soviet Union almost didn't survive. If we can overcome this, it will make our Commonwealth a strong player on the world arena."

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