Until recently regional integration in the post-Soviet space was largely declarative. But the Eurasian Customs Union (ECU), the latest initiative, appears more viable because of its better institutional framework, proven commitment to implementation and introduction of a system of rules harmonized with international norms and the WTO regime.
This initiative, which offers a forward-looking, advanced form of economic integration, has serious implications for EU–Russian relations in general and the EU's strategy in the post-Soviet 'shared neighbourhood' in particular.
Ukraine has turned into a normative battleground, with Russia trying to dissuade it from pursuing an Association Agreement with the EU containing the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area and to join the ECU instead.
Faced with this challenge, the EU needs to revisit its 'external governance' approach to its eastern neighbourhood in terms of short- and long-term opportunities and challenges.