Aleksandr Lukashenko attends session of Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow
Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia are resolute to sign the treaty on founding the Eurasian Economic Union in line with the previously determined schedule. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement after the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Moscow on 24 December.
The summit’s agenda included about ten issues. The Presidents discussed development prospects of integration and the accession of other countries to the association. The three heads of state held a session in the narrow format and then met with Presidents of Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, the Prime Minister of Ukraine.
Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the work on the institutional part of the draft Eurasian Economic Union Treaty had already been completed. At the same time several sensitive issues had not been settled on the level of experts. The Belarusian President underlined that it hampers the progress.
The Belarusian head of state pointed out that the number one issue is whether the Union will be an international organization: “There is an opinion that it is too early to discuss the matter, because it is unclear how it will work,” the Belarusian leader said.
“I am convinced that the Union should be an international organization with the appropriate legal status. This status is crucial for the efficient operation of the Union. This status would be understandable to the international community and our citizens,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. The corresponding decision was made in December 2012. According to the Belarusian President, the progress might be threatened by unfavorable allegations of numerous opponents of the Eurasian integration outside the Customs Union.
Belarus urges a clear-cut distribution of powers within the Union and between the member states, the President emphasized. “The more specific we are while formalizing our functions, the fewer disputes we will have over the distribution of our responsibilities. Everybody agreed on the scope of reference of the Union. Now it is time to make the next step and set froth what fields the member states will be responsible for as part of the harmonized policy,” the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to clearly define the legal effect and the hierarchy of the Union’s regulations. The Belarusian President believes that it is critical that the decisions of the Supreme Council and the Intergovernmental Council are not just political documents, but legally binding regulatory acts mandatory for all the signatories. According to the Belarusian leader, this will ensure efficient operation and control over the work of the Eurasian Economic Commission. “Otherwise, the heads of state will not be able to abolish the decisions of the Eurasian Economic Council, which is nonsense,” the Belarusian President emphasized.
Apart from that, Aleksandr Lukashenko drew attention to the fact that during the last meeting in Minsk the Presidents of the Troika countries had agreed that the directors and deputy directors of the EEC directorates should hail from different states. The presidents instructed experts to work on the matter. “However, the work has made little headway, which hinders the development of the treaty. And overall, it is not okay when the decisions of the three Presidents are not fulfilled,” the Belarusian head of state said.
A decision should be made on the location of the agencies of the Union. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the matter is a stumbling block. “It is understandable that each of the three states wants to be home to an integration agency. However, the Court and the Commission have been operating for a long time. It seems the organizational matters were settled a long time ago. Therefore, do we really need to raise this issue again and relocate the staff and the property? The question remains open. I believe that we need to close the chapter on it today,” the Belarusian leader said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia are creating the Eurasian Economic Union where the Single Economic Space will function. It is stipulated by the resolution adopted in Astana in May 2013. The resolution states “without exemptions and restrictions as a rule”. The Belarusian head of state pointed out that the three countries had advanced further in ensuring the freedom of merchandise transportation than in the spheres of services, capital, and workforce. According to the Belarus President, it is only logical because the establishment of the Customs Union began earlier than the establishment of the Single Economic Space.
“However, despite the arrangements made by the three countries some exemptions still linger, including those applied to alcohol, tobacco, medications, medical products, gas, oil, oil products, automobiles, fish, and so on. I am convinced that it is risky and wrong to go ahead with the economic union while the customs union is not fully operational,” the Belarusian President stressed.
“The freedom of merchandise transportation should be kind of an example for bringing about all the other freedoms. Otherwise, even non-economists will understand that the entire idea of the union and its economic sense can be doubted,” the Belarusian head of state believes.
This is why Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested the enforcement of national regulations against the merchandise of the three countries as part of the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty. Merchandise of the three countries should not be subject to any restrictions, export duties, other kinds of duties and fees, quantity restrictions or something else, including various hindrances. In his opinion, at the same time consistent efforts should be put into implementing the arrangements stipulated by the basic agreements of the Single Economic Space.
Apart from that, Aleksandr Lukashenko disagreed with the idea to allow the obligations stipulated by the Treaty not to apply to the obligations of the Eurasian Economic Union member states stipulated by agreements with third countries. In his words, the norm would threaten the integration process.
The Belarusian President emphasized that bilateral agreements exist inside the Troika, too. Some of them stipulate more favorable trade and economic cooperation terms in comparison with the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty. “I think it is important to preserve their effect and clearly state it in the treaty we are preparing. I am convinced that the approach will foster further development of integration processes,” the Belarusian leader said.
Speaking about the functional part of the Treaty, Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that its readiness is at about 30%. Although it is a tentative figure, the situation raises concerns because a number of chapters have not been worked out. Aleksandr Lukashenko suggested instructing the Eurasian Economic Commission to step up the work to analyze the compatibility of the institutional part and the functional part of the draft treaty.
The presidents of the Troika member states have approved the institutional part of the draft Eurasian Economic Union Treaty at the session in the narrow format. This part of the Treaty defines the international and legal status of the Union, its goals and operation mechanisms. According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the document sets forth the key operation principles of the Union. They are mutually beneficial cooperation, harmonious development and competitiveness. The ultimate goal is improving the living standards of people.
The next stage of the work is to harmonize the functional, or sectoral, part of the draft treaty. The Russian President drew attention to the fact that the deadline is rather tight; the text of the Treaty should be drafted by 1 May 2014. After that the draft treaty will be submitted to the national parliaments. Vladimir Putin deems it necessary to build up cooperation between ministries, agencies and expert groups, so that the Eurasian Economic Union will become operational on 1 January 2015.
According to Vladimir Putin, the sectoral part of the treaty should formalize obligations of each party in the field of economic policy. In his words, it is necessary to complete codification of the entire legal framework of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space, remove the remaining exemptions from the common regulations on trade and investments, to guarantee the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and workforce.
By 1 March 2014 Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia should make a list of exemptions and restrictions which still remain in the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space and should determine the timeline for their elimination, the President of Russia said.
At the session the Presidents agreed that exemptions will have to be reduced in order to eliminate them in the end.
The Russian President emphasized that the Eurasian economic integration is beneficial for the economic development of the member states. “Despite an unfavorable global environment, the Troika common market is expanding. In 2010-2012 the trade between our countries increased by nearly a third. The share of raw materials in export/import operations is decreasing, which was emphasized at the session. It is a very important part of our joint work,” Vladimir Putin said.
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union is an innovative project of the modern time. In his words, it is not an attempt to recreate the USSR and all the participating states share the view. “We are moving forward instead of backward,” he said. The President added that the integration association will not repeat other similar unions.
At the summit the three Presidents approved a roadmap of Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. The heads of state agreed that experts will keep working on the roadmap of Kyrgyzstan’s accession to the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space. The draft document is almost ready.
Special treatment cannot be preserved for new members of the Customs Union, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said.
The participants of the session passed a decision on the elaboration of the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty, including the provisions on the promotion of integration, and the 2014 budget of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
They also signed a document on the establishment of a special agency at the EurAsEC Court to deal with possible violations of competition-related rules. They also authorized the Eurasian Economic Commission to control the fulfillment of the unified rules on competition on the cross-border markets of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space member states. A decision was made to amend the list of sensitive products in respect of which the import duty can be changed by the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
The heads of state passed a final report on the execution of a provision on natural monopolies stipulated by the action plan on the formation of the Single Economic Space. They also passed a decision on the list of regulations on natural monopolies that will be harmonized by the Customs Union and the SES member states.
After the summit Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty should become a significant step forward in promoting the integration.
Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that it is necessary to implement fully the agreements that have already been reached in the Single Economic Space, "adopt the best practices of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space and create an effective legal system and structure of the future union.”
The President of Belarus said that the treaty is taking shape. Yet there is a lot of work ahead. According to him, a number of most sensitive positions required clarification, in particular on the delimitation of authorities of the Union and the Member States, the hierarchy of the future union, etc.
When discussing the correlation of the treaty with other international instruments, we stated that it should not hinder the conclusion of new agreements or implementation of the agreements reached earlier, if these agreements chime in with the objectives of the treaty or create more favorable conditions for cooperation,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. As an example he cited the need to maintain the arrangements within the framework of the Belarus-Russia Union State.
The meeting considered the preparation of the functional part of the treaty. "The Eurasian Economic Commission together with the member states need to do quite a lot and in a very short time,” said the President of Belarus. According to him, some sections require careful consideration, for example, sanitary, veterinary and phytosanitary measures, trade in services and investment, competition policy and public procurement.
“If we fail to get the Eurasian Economic Union up and running at the time we have chosen — as from 1 January 2015 — it will be a disgrace for all of us,” the Belarusian head of state said. He underlined that with this in mind the three countries are resolute to create and sign the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty within a short period of time.
“We believe that the creation of the new association on the basis of the Customs Union without any exemptions and restrictions with regard to merchandise trade between the participating countries is an important matter relevant for the future development of integration. We have advanced as far as possible in enabling the free flow of commodities,” the Belarusian leader said.
“The full-value freedom of commodity flow should be an example for implementing the other freedoms in the spheres of services, capital, and workforce as stipulated by basic agreements of the Single Economic Space,” the Belarusian President believes. According to the Belarusian side, this approach will allow accomplishing the ambitious task of creating the Eurasian Economic Union within a short time.Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the session had once again confirmed the commitment of the leaders to advancing integration. “We are capable of reaching a consensus on all issues, even the most sensitive ones,” believes the Belarusian leader. “The existing trustful relations between the countries will secure the further advance of mutually beneficial cooperation."