>> So what is going on here? Why are Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan rowing about trade?
>> In an interview with Euronews, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev blamed Kazakhstan for imposing a trade barrier in 2010 which then forced it to join the Kremlin-lead Eurasian Economic Union. The Kazakh side responded by denying that this had ever happened and issuing a formal complaint.
>> So is this serious? What is the back-story to this?
>> This an extension of a long-running feud between the two neighbours over trade. Each has accused the other of underhand tactics which have damaged their trade. Kazakhstan is a far bigger economy than Kyrgyzstan. This puts Kazakhstan is a far stronger position than Kyrgyzstan and Kyrgyz MPs and officials often accuse it of essentially bullying it. The issue here, though, maybe that Atambayev is looking to deflect from his unpopular move in 2015 to pull Kyrgyzstan into the Kremlin’s Eurasian Economic Union. Kyrgyzstan became the fifth member of the group after Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia.
>> Why has the Eurasian Economic Union become so unpopular in Kyrgyzstan?
>> It’s mainly the timing of joining that was the problem. Russia had just tipped into a recession linked to a collapse in oil prices. Jobs for migrant workers dried up and various projects that Russia had promised to fund were scrapped. At the same time, Kyrgyzstan’s economy started faltering and the currency started to fall. Officials looking to shift blame found an easy target in the Eurasian Economic Union. There have also been some genuine problems with paperwork and with what was described in 2015 as a flood of cheap imports from Kazakhstan and Russia into Kyrgyzstan, which damaged local producers.
>> Are there any numbers to back this up?
>> The data that Kyrgyz officials use to back up their arguments is from the Kyrgyz Statistic Committee which said that trade with other Eurasian Economic Union members was down by over 18% last year. This was held up as proof that the Eurasian Economic Union was not working. The reality is a bit more complex. Kazakhstan also published trade figures that showed its trade with other Eurasian Economic Union figures had fallen by a similar amount. This may be more to do with the general regional economic downturn than the Eurasian Economic Union.