Since January 1, 2018, Russia has assumed the presidency of the Eurasian Economic Union. In this regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin invited the CIS countries to become EAEU observers. Some experts suppose that Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan may be observers.
The ЕАEU is not just an economic integration. It also ensures security of borders and supports overcoming new threats. This integration is a solution to the food security problem, issues of markets, and investments near neighbors, friends, and fellows. The common past brought together the peoples of the CIS countries.
I suppose there is a possibility that Azerbaijan will not accept the EAEU observer status. Azerbaijan has close ties in the economic, political, social, and cultural fields with practically all EAEU states. But every rule has its exception you know. And its exception is Armenia.
About two years ago on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan did not deny the possibility of its accession to the Eurasian Economic Union membership. It was the time when the idea of Azerbaijan’s EAEU accession was mostly relevant.
However, some political factors seriously complicate this issue. They are established by the hostile nature of the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and the negative attitude of the Armenian authorities and public to any format of cooperation between Azerbaijan and the EAEU. Therefore, many experts consider such rapprochement extremely unlikely at this stage.
However, an economic factor makes this rapprochement possible. It is the policy of Azerbaijan to diversify the national economy due to the price volatility in the energy market that makes up the bulk of the state’s revenues. That is why the successful multi-vector development of Azerbaijan faced a number of barriers in the field of foreign policy and foreign economy. It is possible to overcome the barriers through uniting or closer cooperation with geo-economic blocks and economic integration.
Besides, another important factor is the increased criticism from Western countries and international pro-Western organizations towards Azerbaijan. Under these conditions, it is quite natural for Baku to strengthen relations with Moscow, which can also make Azerbaijan’s accession to the EAEU more likely. Moreover, Turkey has recently expressed its desire to cooperate with the Eurasian Economic Union. Turkey is the main guideline for the foreign policy of Azerbaijan. Therefore, if Ankara gets closer to the Union, similar steps in this direction can be expected from Baku.
It is also important that such cooperation would greatly facilitate the Eurasian integration to the East. The EAEU initiated negotiations on free trade zone (FTZ, FTZ+) with countries such as Iran, Pakistan, and India. And Azerbaijan can play a key role in this issue, as it is a strategically important transport hub in the region. At the last Putin-Aliyev-Rouhani meeting in Tehran, the parties once again stressed the importance of such format of negotiations.
The issue of Eurasian integration of Azerbaijan is in a complex position. A serious embarrassment is the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which has a negative impact on the further development of relations between Azerbaijan and the Eurasian Economic Union. The Azerbaijan-EAEC rapprochement is possible through the CIS FTZ or on the basis of bilateral and multilateral ties between Baku and the EAEU members.