Seminar №4. Regional integration in Central Asia: theory, experience, prospects

On December 2, an academic seminar on “Regional Integration in Central Asia: Theory, Experience, Prospects” was held in the Discussion Club of “Knowledge Caravan”. The seminar was focused on the theoretical, conceptual and practical aspects of a complex and contradictory process of integration in the region, since its independence in 1991 until present.

The discussion revealed differing assessments of this process and showed both optimistic and skeptical views on the future of regional integration.  There has been an overview of integration theories including functionalism / neofunctionalism, federalism, intergovernmentalism, comparative politics, institutionalism, political networks, governance and social constructivism.
The range of views and assessments was quite diverse. It can be conditionally summarized as the following interesting, yet not undisputable, set of theses and questions:
-It is not appropriate to compare Central Asia with the EU, where long-established states began to integrate;
-So far no one has ever desired integration in the region;

-The geopolitical balancing policy of the region’s countries is no longer taking place;  

– The Eurasian Union and the Central Asian Union are not compatible;

– The Eurasian Union and the Central Asian Union are compatible;

Despite the set up of official integration structures, other opposite and objective trends were occurring in practice. For instance:  

-the prevalence of independence and nation-building goals with a relevant ideological support; the erosion of the cultural and mental unity of the regional population; the lack of integration technology;
-the CIS factor interfered with Central Asian integration;
 -the SCO factor also has had a fragmenting effect on CA;
 -poor countries cannot unite with each other;
 -integration benefits Kazakhstan more than Uzbekistan;
– which world powers benefits from integration in Central Asia?

-who would sponsor the integration, in a way similar to the Marshall Plan?
It is interesting how the various interpretations of reasons obstructing the integration process and skeptical assessments were in discord with an explicit support of the ​​unification idea as a higher value and purpose. It is important, therefore, to review multiple approaches to this issue, taking into account not only the economic benefits but also the interests of regional security, geopolitics, common identity, and the general global trend towards the regionalization of the world order.