IS THE CIS GETTING DIVORCED?


07.08.06
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Goncharov)

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is undergoing several processes, but essentially they boil down to a regulated disintegration of a once enormous country. December 8, 1991 was not so much the CIS’s date of birth as a prelude to its formal disappearance.

This conclusion may sound depressing to some people, but it is most probably true. Credit for this verdict goes to the president of the Kyrgyz Institute of Social Policy, Kyrgyz former Foreign Minister and member of the RIA Novosti Expert Council Muratbek Imanaliyev. There is little to add to it except for the fact that as an international entity, the CIS has devised a record number of paper projects. It has implemented only 10% of the 1,600 documents drawn up over the 15 years of its existence, 90% were “good intentions”.

The CIS has all the formal attributes of an international organization: charter documents, executive bodies, etc., but its decisions are not binding on its members, and this is the main problem. It is understandable why Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of the most dynamic CIS nation, made a “demarche” at the recent Commonwealth summit: “We should make decisions which meet everyone’s interests and we should not make a decision if any country disagrees.” He suggested five areas for resuscitating the CIS which would be good for all: migration policy, transportation, education, dealing with today’s challenges, and the humanitarian problem. Now the only thing to do is to find common ground and secure a consensus among all members of the CIS club.

Migration and education are definitely the most important questions. All members have a stake in resolving this problem on CIS territory. The widespread opinion that guest workers are exclusively bound for Russia is wrong in many respects. It is true that more of them come to Russia than to any other CIS country. But in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan the lack of proper conditions for the migration of workers is no less urgent than it is in Russia. The governments of the three republics should deal with this problem, which is sensitive in many respects. They should agree on how to resolve it. The situation in other parts of the CIS is much the same. To sum up, it is high time to adopt a law on migration in the CIS.

Education is a more appealing subject if it means the formation of unified standards for educational systems throughout the CIS. Resolution of this problem will streamline migration and even out the educational levels (at least on a regional scale in the beginning). It is indispensable for making the economies more equal, achieving EURASEC integration and developing cooperation in the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

The Kazakh president’s other proposals are also topical. He spoke about a “united approach to international policy” and a “common defense space”. But consensus on these questions will not be easy to reach. What is to be done? The CIS members should start working, and solutions may come in the process.

If the CIS implements the proposed reform on consensus and binding decisions, it will be making an effort to undo the divorce and restore cooperative relations. But is consensus always possible? There are some painful problems which can only be resolved with the passage of time. Is compromise possible at all in such cases?

Some CIS members are interested in the reform for geopolitical, economic, and historic reasons. But once it has been completed, the CIS may have fewer members, which is both predictable and natural.

As Imanaliyev pointes out, the CIS is not simply going through a divorce. It is also helping the former members of a once united country to develop two kinds of relations: between Russia and the rest and between newly independent states. All these processes are far from being completed; empires do not disappear overnight. -0-