Eurasian Integration of Belarus as Path-Dependence

Eurasian Integration of Belarus as Path-Dependence

Evgeny Treshchenkov (Saint Petersburg State University, Russia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1950-9.ch010

Abstract

There is a tendency to explain all the problems and choices made by the Republic of Belarus as a result of the policy of its leadership. This text offers a take on choices made by Belarus in favor of preserving and strengthening relations with Russia through the prism of the concept of path-dependence. Simply said, economic, social, and political circumstances determine the vector of development of the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as well as they frame and transform president Lukashenka's intentions. Thus, country's participation in the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union is a predictable step in a chain of interconnected choices that the Belarusian political elite have been making since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Special attention in the text is paid to what the analysis of the Belarusian case can tell about the nature and prospects of integration in the region.
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Background

Belarus occupies a special place in the history of post-Soviet economic integration, since it is a consistent participant in almost all Russia-led integration associations in the region. The participation of Belarus in the EAEU is often viewed by the media and experts as a result of a choice made by Belarusian leadership. In the academic literature, the analysis of the motives of Belarus’s participation in the EAEU is rather scarce. There is a fair opinion that it should be viewed, first of all, as an attempt to preserve an access of the country's exports to the Russian market. It is based on a few studies of Russia-Belarus relations, revealing the reasons for the choice made by the president A. Lukashenka in favor of developing economic integration with Russia (Zaostrovtsev, 2007; Koktysh, 2000). At the same time, these studies as well as attempts to explain the current participation of Belarus in the EAEU lack a clear conceptual framework. As an example of such a framework, which allows analyzing empirical material in a systematic and more intrinsic way, this study suggests historical institutionalism and the notion of path-dependence. This is the first attempt to apply path-dependence to the Belarusian case. Up to the present, its application to the post-Soviet problematics has been limited to explaining the entanglements of political transformation in Russia (Hedlund, 2005; Gel’man, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Path-Dependence: A key notion of historical institutionalism. Explains how the set of decisions available for selection in the current situation is framed by decisions that were made in the past.

EAEU Common Economic Space: Formally launched in 2012 to provide for four “freedoms” (movement of goods, services, capital and labor) in the EAEU, but is still in a process of implementation.

EAEU Customs Union: One of two pillars of the EAEU, formed in 2007-2010 by Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia within the framework of the former EurAsEC. With an application of the norms of the common Customs Code provides freedom of movement of goods. Includes a unified system of foreign trade and customs regulation, as well as a single legal framework in technical regulation.

EAEU Common Customs Tariff: Systematized set of import customs duty rates applicable to goods imported into the customs territory of the Eurasian Economic Union from third countries.

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