EDB Integration Barometer - 2014

22 September 2014

The results of the third research into preferences of the CIS region population with respect to various aspects of Eurasian integration suggest that the “integration core” of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) continues to form and crystallise. The research has been performed by Eurasian Development Bank’s Centre for Integration Studies and the Eurasian Monitor International Research Agency.

Over 13,000 people from ten CIS countries and Georgia (between 1,000 and 2,000 people in each country) took part in the poll.

Here are some results of the research (for more information, please see the analytical summary below). Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus have a high level of public approval of Customs Union activities. Kazakhstan and Russia demonstrate the highest growth in support their populations express for participation in the Customs Union. Over the recent year, the support for the Customs Union among the population of Kazakhstan and Russia grew by more than 11%, to 84% and 79% respectively. In Belarus, 68% of the population approves participation in the Customs Union.

Among non-Customs Union countries, in 2014 the highest support from the population for joining these two organisations was demonstrated in Tajikistan (72%) and Uzbekistan (68%). In our opinion, this is an argument for activating integration between the EEU and these two countries.

The population of Armenia, which is a candidate to joining the EEU, also expresses higher-than-average support (64%). At the same time, in Uzbekistan the level of support for joining the Customs Union dropped by 9%, and in Tajikistan and Armenia by 3%.

In Kyrgyzstan, which intends to join the EEU after Armenia, the level of public support for joining the Customs Union has reduced significantly over the recent year, from 67% to 50%, while negative attitudes have doubled, which is an alarming sign. Other results of our poll confirm that the Kyrgyz population’s interest in the CIS region has declined in almost all areas of integration (economic, political and sociocultural spheres) while the tendency towards autonomy has increased (where respondents did not express preferences for any countries).

An interesting fact is that more than half of the Georgian population (53%) continue to support the possible joining to the Customs Union. However, here also the level of approval decreased by 6% and negative attitudes grew by 7% year-on-year.

In Moldova 49% of respondents would prefer joining the Customs Union (down by 6%) and 23% are against this option (up by 7%).

While a year ago the degree of negative attitudes towards participation in Eurasian economic integration was the lowest only in Azerbaijan (among CIS countries), this year Ukraine joined it. In Ukraine the level of support for joining the Customs Union has decreased from 50% to 31% over the year, while negative attitudes to these prospects have grown from 28% to 50%. In Azerbaijan the trend did not change: the low support for its hypothetical joining the Customs Union continued to decline over the year, from 37% to 22%, and negative attitudes grew from 53% to 64%. This confirms that both these countries become increasingly closed with respect to the Eurasian integration project.

For the majority of CIS states the most attractive country for integration is Russia. Positive attitudes towards integration with Russia are especially manifest in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, where over two thirds of respondents made this preference. Armenia, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Moldova also expressed positive attitudes towards uniting with Russia. For the Russian population the most preferred countries for integration are Belarus and Kazakhstan and only a fourth of the Russian population is positive now about uniting with Ukraine.

Along with predominantly high evaluation of the Customs Union among its member states and the growing sceptical perception of it on the part of neighbouring countries, the Integration Barometer has fixed alarming trends in the respondents’ attitudes towards investment, scientific and technological cooperation, and education.

In particular, our 2014 survey confirmed that there were still no dominant economic preferences, as this was fixed in 2012-2013. The population of Moldova, Ukraine and Russia prefer investment from the European Union (52%, 57%, and 43% respectively). Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are orientated towards investment from “other countries” (beyond the CIS and the EU). For Uzbekistan, the most preferred “other countries” are Japan and China, and for Azerbaijan Turkey. Georgia has approximately an evenly high level of investment preferences for the EU countries and “other countries” (52% and 59% respectively), where the most preferred “other country” is the U.S. (mentioned by 48% of respondents). Investment from CIS countries is predominantly preferred in Tajikistan (74% of respondents) and Kyrgyzstan (65%). Among post-Soviet countries, the most attractive source of investment is Russia (39%).

Key partners in the area of scientific and technological cooperation are primarily “other countries” (as in 2013), i.e. non-members of the CIS and the EU (Japan and the U.S. in the first place). Over a half of respondents (52%) preferred this group of countries, while EU and ex-Soviet Union countries were given lower preference (42%).

In all countries the most preferred scientific and technological partners are Japan, the U.S. and China (29%, 20% and 18% on average, respectively). Japan was most often mentioned in Russia (45%), Uzbekistan (42%), Georgia (42%), Kazakhstan (38%), and Belarus (37%); the U.S. in Ukraine and Georgia (33% in each country); and China in Belarus (35%), Uzbekistan (29%) and Russia (27%). “Other countries” are, on the whole, more popular, compared to EU and CIS countries, in Azerbaijan (67%), Uzbekistan (65%), Russia (61%), Belarus (60%) and Georgia (65%). Scientific and technological cooperation with CIS countries is preferred in Tajikistan (68%) and Kyrgyzstan (65%); these preferences are also rather high in Kazakhstan (50%) and Uzbekistan (49%), however in these countries they overlap with the “other countries” vector.

The demand for goods from neighbouring countries was another issue surveyed. In Ukraine this indicator fell from 20% to 15% year-on-year. The popularity of Belarusian goods is growing — they were mentioned by 24% of respondents in Russia in 2014.

The third Integration Barometer confirmed that the CIS region does not have any specific competitive advantages in the area of education. This reduces the attraction and global competitiveness of the region as a whole and of the Eurasian integration project in particular. In 2014 educational services from CIS countries were in higher demand than from EU and “other countries” in two states — Tajikistan (57% vs 14% for the EU, and 43% for “other countries”) and Uzbekistan (37% vs 27% for the EU and 30% for “other countries”).

In Kazakhstan the situation has changed: the demand for education offered by post-Soviet countries dropped from 29% to 20%. Georgian and Russian respondents most often mentioned EU countries in the 2014 poll (59% and 46% respectively). Among the countries beyond the former Soviet Union, which were most often mentioned, are Turkey in Azerbaijan, the U.S. and China in Tajikistan, and the U.S. and Turkey in Kyrgyzstan. Georgian respondents prefer to study in the U.S., the U.K., and Germany. In Russia the preferred location for studies is also the U.K.

An important indicator of the attitudes towards political integration of the countries is the general attitude towards possible mutual rapprochement between the countries in the region. Here the countries divide into several groups.

The share of respondents who believe that in the next five years the countries of the former Soviet Union will converge is approximately a half of the population and is significantly higher than the share of “integration pessimists” in Tajikistan (51%), Uzbekistan (45%), Kyrgyzstan (46%), and Russia (49%). In Belarus (37%), Armenia (27%), Georgia (29%), and Moldova (32%) the number of “integration optimists” also exceeds the number of sceptics, yet it is not that significant. In Azerbaijan and Ukraine (18% each) the share of respondents who think that former Soviet Union countries will continue to grow apart is higher than the share of those with different opinions.

If to combine three factors — politics, economy, and culture — the priority vector for a relative majority of the countries (namely, Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, as well as Armenia and Belarus) is the post-Soviet space, and the key factor for this grouping is political.

The population of Russia, which is the centre of attraction for many nations of the former Soviet Union, supports the advancement of Eurasian integration, but does no show interest in the CIS region in the area of economy and culture where it is orientated towards autonomy.

All the information about methodology and results of the research is available in analytical summary and full version of the report.

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