The main focus of the University of Passau’s research agenda was the perception of the Eurasian Economic Union and Eastern Neighbourhood countries within the EU institutions and the EU member states. In contrast to the preliminary expectations assuming focus on economic aspects, the project team could trace an increasing salience of security issues in the EU’s view on the EEU, said Prof. Daniel Göler. In addition to Russia's war against Ukraine, this is also due to a general shift in the EU's security discourse, in which economic policy issues are increasingly considered in terms of their strategic importance. This includes critical infrastructure, the import of strategic goods and raw materials, foreign investments in key industries, and cyber security. The changing geopolitical contexts results in new business opportunities in Central Asia and the South Caucasus for European Companies, which are increasingly interested in deepening trade and investment relations with the EU member states.
The team of Corvinus University of Budapest lead by Dr. Tamás Matura was focusing on the relations between China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the European Union and the EEU’s region in between. Even though the BRI started in 2013 as a promising project to increase connectivity across Eurasia, developments of the past three years have brought tremendous changes to the viability and sustainability of it. First, the Covid-19 crisis and later the war in Ukraine have reintroduced geopolitics and security related issues into the everyday life of businesses and triggered fundamental changes in the political and economic considerations of the EU. New ideas like derisking, re- and nearshoring and deglobalisation are setting the agenda nowadays, as not only present but also potential future conflicts like the Taiwan issue push businesses to reconsider their positions in China and their dependence on global supply chains. German and other major European companies have already taken actions to decrease the dependence on China, which has a significant impact on the sustainability of the BRI. The conflict between the West and Russia also renders BRI related activities riskier and therefore more costly. Given the structural nature of tensions between the West and authoritarian regimes like Russia and China, it is highly probable that investment and supply chain related activities between the two sides will dwindle further in the foreseeable future.
The research team from the Armenian State University of Economics (ASUE) comes to the following conclusion. Armenia's economy surged in 2022, with growth reaching around 12%, primarily driven by trade and services. While celebrating these economic achievements, it is essential to look beyond the immediate gains. The growth was closely tied to the relocation of Russian migrants and businesses due to the Ukraine war. However, the lingering Russian-Ukrainian war and subsequent sanctions posed challenges. The Armenian dram's strengthening impacted exports and led to a complex interplay of opportunities and risks resulting from sanctions on Russia. Yet, to gain a deeper understanding of the situation, it's crucial to look at the issue from a broader, international viewpoint. Within this intricate web of international relations, dictatorial regimes, like Aliyev's in Azerbaijan, have played significant roles. This inadvertently implicates EU taxpayers in funding instability in the Caucasus region and Ukraine. They undermine the European Union's sanctions policy by serving as an alternative channel for selling sanctioned resources from sanctioned countries. In this context, the ASUE research team encourage EU businesses to exercise caution and refrain from engaging with warmongering regimes threatening regional stability.
The team of the University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna stresses that the war in Ukraine takes place in the context of a major geopolitical conflict. The collective West endeavors to preserve and globally enforce a liberal world order based on values and norms. Russia seeks to establish a multipolar world order, and thereby restore its own “historical greatness”. The invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 represents a point of no return in this confrontation, leading to the formation of new geopolitical alliances and blocks. The future world will likely be characterized by competition between the Western bloc and a non-liberal authoritarian bloc, mainly consisting of Russia and China. The conflict will probably last for a long-time. If the West and Ukraine agreed to start peace negotiations with Russia, this step alone would be a tactical victory by Russia. For companies, this means that there is no way back to doing business with Russia as before the war. The premise learned from past crises and conflicts, "just plunge through," is not a management option this time. Rather, geopolitical risks and sanctions will have to be managed for a long time.
As the EUCON research team sums-up, while there are also opportunities for enterprises due to the new geopolitical constellation in the South Caucasus and Central Asia, they basically must deal with a wide range of new political risks. The world is moving towards geopolitical and technological bifurcation. Due to the securitization of economic questions, enterprises find themselves in a situation, where they are considered as political players. In this context, enterprises also must manage normative and reputational issues when dealing with authoritarian or sanction circumventing countries.