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Will COVID-19 Curtail Eurasian Integration?

October 6, 2020

Yun Han, Doctoral Candidate, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Nargis Kassenova, Senior Fellow, Program on Central Asia, Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University

Marsha McGraw Olive, World Bank manager, ret., and adjunct faculty, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

Jacopo Maria Pepe, Research Fellow, SWP-German Institute for International and Security Affairs

Moderated by Kent E. Calder, Director of the Edwin O. Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies  

The Johns Hopkins SAIS Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies and the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University co-hosted a discussion with four renowned experts from China, Germany, Kazakhstan, and the United States to explore the dual issues of the impacts of COVID-19 on the European-Eurasian integration project, and the future of Chinese influence in cross-continental integration through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The discussion started with Calder reiterating the changing dynamics of the region following the collapse of the USSR, the rise of China, and the integration of the EU. In regards to China, Han covered the role of Greece and Hungry in the BRI stating that both of these nations could increasingly pivot towards China as the BRI reached European shores since the U.S. continued to limit and impede access to its markets. In tandem, Pepe, addressing the German, Russian, and Eurasian integration strategy post-COVID, believed that for the most part the virus won’t fundamentally alter the progress, but greater competition for trade routes will define the new era.

Kassenova continued the conversation by offering insight on the role of EU connectivity with Central Asia, finding that EU connectivity is still onboard, as every crisis is also a silver-lining of opportunity. McGraw Olive, in relation to the post-COVID future of Central Asia, noted that while crashing oil and gas prices may have hindered economic prosperity, in the long-run, the virus would be unable to curtail or rollback globalization. Both ultimately were in synch, that the EU was more likely to deepen its relationship to the region, especially in the fields of energy, climate, and the digital revolution. In closing, Calder reiterated that the process of integration and connectivity was moving ahead.