Over the past month, the European Union and the Eurasian Union, an ad hoc group of Russia and former Soviet bloc countries, have bitterly competed for Ukrainian alliance. While the Ukrainian people have shown a desire to form closer ties with the European Union, the governing party has done just the opposite. Within the past week, in fact, Ukraine has announced that it will not sign a trade deal with the European Union and will instead look towards Russia for economic ties.
Obviously, there are many issues that the Eurasian Union could bring, but I will not address these since only time will tell how these issues manifest themselves. Instead, I will focus on the European Union’s response to Eurasian Union potential Eastern European Union membership.
The EU of late has been moving of late to integrate Eastern European countries, perhaps in a move to offset the debt and financial ruin that some of its Mediterranean members have brought. It has already integrated Bulgaria and Moldova and is moving towards trying to integrate other Eastern European nations such as Ukraine and Moldova in the near future.
With many of these Eastern European, former Soviet bloc nations shunning the EU and looking towards Russia’s Eurasian Union instead, though, the EU must look elsewhere for new member states and trade partners.
Historically, the EU has always looked nearby for new members; though a large trade organization, all of its member states have always been geographically connected. This way of thinking must be challenged.
Just because Eastern European countries are closer proximally does not make them better trade partners. In the modern day, proximity in fact is not even useful; globalization and advances in communication technology now render distance negligible for economic ties. Instead of trying to compete with Russia for new potential Eastern European members for the European and Eurasian Union who tend to be less developed and would offer less benefit to the EU, the EU should target countries across the world whose economic standing would make them ideal EU member states.
The EU could, for example, look to the rapidly developing economies in Asia and Latin America for membership. It would be far easier to pursue Western notions of free trade with East Asian countries than with the Eastern European ones long since accustomed to trade restrictions. These nations are expanding far more rapidly and are already generally more developed than Eastern European ones and their trade is therefore more valuable to existing EU members.
Moreover, free movement would be less of a problem for these member states removed from mainland Europe. The EU has always feared adding lesser developed member states for fear that their citizens would flood EU countries markets, but that would be less of an issue if these new member states were a plane ride away.
Thus, it is not just circumstantially necessary but also fiscally prudent for the EU to begin looking away from Europe for new membership.