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You're reading: Choice of EU as trading partner for Eastern Partnership countries is no brainer

In
2011 Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan came up with a rival idea of establishing the
Eurasian Union and in 2012 established a Customs Union comprising these three
countries. Russia has recently been pushing the Eastern Partnership countries
other than Belarus to join the Customs Union. In August it introduced temporary
extra checks on imports from Ukraine. More recently imports of Moldovan wines
and spirits have been banned by Russia. Armenia has apparently already given in
to this pressure. Ahead of the Vilnius Summit at the end of November the
Eastern Partnership countries face the fundamental choice of whether to proceed
on the path of deeper trade integration with the EU or join the Kremlin-led Customs
Union (the options are mutually exclusive).

To
answer the question, which of the two roads offers the most promising prospects
for the Eastern Partnership countries, it is first worth looking at the past experience
of those countries in the Central, Eastern and Southern Europe that have chosen
the path of integration with the European Union and are now members of the EU. Then
this experience can be compared with the record of the current Eastern
Partnership countries.

Let’s
start with the new EU member states. With Romania and Bulgaria having joined in
2007 and Croatia being taken on board in July of this year there are 13 of them
(the other 10 joined in 2004). We have looked at how successful these countries
have been at closing the income gap with the richest EU member states. As the
country for benchmarking we have selected Germany, a large and diversified high-
income economy. We have looked at how the purchasing power parity-adjusted gross
domestic product per capita has changed in the new EU member states relative to
Germany from 1995 to 2012.

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