Customs bloc between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan concerns EU

The European Union "is concerned" by the upcoming enactment of the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday.

According to the RBC news agency, Ashton warned that the union may "harm" international trade and be an additional barrier fencing Astana, Minsk and Moscow off the World Trade Organization (WTO).

"We have no questions to the customs unions as such, but we become concerned when these unions don't assist but hinder international trade," she said, adding that "it looks like that particular union is of the latter kind."

The Customs Union between the three former Soviet republics was due to be launched on July 1.

In 2009, Moscow, Minsk and Astana announced that they were going to join the WTO as a single entity. However, Moscow claimed later that Russia might seek membership into the WTO separately. Russia hopes to join the WTO by the end of 2010.


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