Each of the five very different states of Central Asia is characterised not only by a common Soviet past but also by the existence of authoritarian regimes, in the case of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan dominated by ageing leaders who rose to power in the USSR, and also by various forms of neo-patrimonialism. In all five states the rule of law is precarious or non-existent, and constitutions and constitutional adjudication largely irrelevant to the real exercise of power.
There is now a highly important new factor, especially in the case of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Intended to build a rival block against the US, the EU and China, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is to date the most impressive integrationist project initiated by Russia since the collapse of the USSR. It started in 2010 as a Customs Union bringing together Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
A treaty aiming for the establishment of the EEU was signed on 29 May 2014 by the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, and came into force on 1 January 2015. Treaties providing for Armenia's and Kyrgyzstan's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union were signed on 9 October 2014 and 23 December, respectively. Armenia's accession treaty came into force on 2 January 2015. Kyrgyzstan's accession treaty came into effect on 6 August 2015. The EEU has an integrated single market of 183 million people and a gross domestic product of over 4 trillion U.S. dollars. The EEU, modelled on the European Union, introduces the free movement of goods, capital, services and people and provides for common transport, agriculture and energy policies, with provisions for a single currency and greater integration in the future. The Supreme Eurasian Economic Council is the "Supreme Body" of the Union, consisting of the Heads of the Member States. The other supranational institutions are the Eurasian Commission (the executive body), located in Moscow, the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council (consisting of the Prime Ministers of member states) and the Court of the EEU (the judicial body).
The Court of the Eurasian Economic Union replaced the Court of the Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC Court) in 2015. It is in charge of dispute resolution and the interpretation of the legal order within the Eurasian Economic Union. Its headquarters is in Minsk. The court is composed of two judges from each member state, appointed by the heads of government of the member states. Their term of office is nine years.
Tajikistan's membership of the EEU has been stalled as a result of conflict between it and Kyrgyzstan in 2013. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan strongly resist the growing Russian influence in the region, and are unlikely to accede while President Karimov remains in power in Tashkent. Turkmenistan has little economic interest in joining.
Bowring visited Kyrgyzstan from 8 to 14 March 2015 on mission for the British Embassy at a time when Kyrgystan had already concluded a Customs Union with Russia and was preparing for accession to the EEU. He has also made several recent visits to Uzbekistan, and studies Kazakhstan closely.
It was evident that Kyrgyzstan has made a sharp turn away from the USA and (back) to Russia, helped by economic inducements. From a constitutional point of view, Kyrgyzstan is following Russia in enacting law on foreign agents (restricting NGO activity) and on extremism, reproducing recent Russian legislation almost work for word. There are similar developments in Kazakhstan.
This lecture analyses and evaluates these developments. Will the EEU be as decisive as the EU in bringing about constitutional change?
Bill Bowring is Professor of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London, where he teaches human rights and international law. His first degree was in Philosophy, from the University of Kent. He has been at Birkbeck since 2006 and previously taught at University of East London, Essex University and London Metropolitan University. He is a Fellow of the Human Rights Centre, Essex University, and a visiting professor at Oxford University, Université de Paris X, Nanterre, and Northampton University. He was called to the Bar in 1974, and practises from Field Court Chambers, Gray's Inn. As a practising barrister, he has represented applicants before the European Court of Human Rights in many cases since 1992, especially against Turkey and Russia. Bowring has over 100 publications on topics of international law, human rights, minority rights, Russian law and philosophy. His latest book is Law, Rights and Ideology in Russia: Landmarks in the Destiny of a Great Power (Routledge 2013). In 2003 he founded the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and is chair of the same. Since 1992 he has been a Trustee of the Redress Trust (working for reparation for torture survivors), and is a founder and Executive Committee member of the Bar Human Rights Committee; a Trustee of Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights; International Secretary of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers; and a founder (1993) and President of the European Lawyers for Democracy and Human Rights (ELDH), with members in 18 European countries.