Aleksandr Lukashenko meets with Chairwoman of Russia’s Federation Council and Russian governors

    Belarus has always viewed cooperation with Russian regions as one of the crucial elements of the Belarusian-Russian relations and as a real economic foundation of integration, President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Chairwoman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of Russia Valentina Matviyenko and heads of Russian regions partaking in the first Forum of Belarusian and Russian Regions on 5 June.

    The head of state emphasized that the exchange of visits of delegations from Belarusian and Russian regions is a good tradition. In his opinion, regular sessions of bilateral councils, commissions and working groups help promptly address the most urgent cooperation issues, and fulfill concrete tasks concerning the expansion of bilateral ties.

    “Of course, it is important to strengthen existing partnership and enhance cooperation on all levels of business interaction, join efforts to get a concrete result,” the President emphasized.

    The first Forum of Belarusian and Russian Regions is focused on effective development of Belarusian and Russian agribusiness. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, cooperation in this area is of paramount importance because it is a backbone of the food security in the UnionState.

    The President stressed that Belarus manufactures a wide range of agricultural equipment. Russian guests can see the product range at the Belagro agricultural exhibition. “These goods are well-known and popular on your market. Often they are products of bilateral cooperation. Russian spare parts account for 80% of some goods,” the head of state remarked.

    Therefore, Belarus is in favor of pursuing a joint wise policy with Russia in matters of manufacturing cooperation, the organization of additional enterprises to assemble Belarusian agricultural machines, Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

    There are more that 1,000 economic operators with Belarusian capital in Russia. In 2013 there were 58 joint ventures in Russia that shipped nearly $350 million worth of merchandise to the Russian market. Over 80% of the assembled merchandise represents agricultural mechanical engineering products of Gomselmash, MTZ, Bobruiskagromash, and Lidagroprommash. According to the President, if the Russian side is willing and provides organizational support at the local level, more enterprises to assemble Belarusian agricultural machines in Russian regions may be set up.

    Among promising avenues of Belarusian-Russian cooperation in agriculture Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned animal husbandry, seed farming and fish farming. “We are ready to take part in the reconstruction of livestock breeding complexes from design services to equipment deliveries,” the President said. “The Belarusian side can supply Russia with trucks, passenger vehicles, highly effective machines for the utility industry,” he added.

    The head of state said that the new manufacturing site of the Belarusian-Swiss enterprise Stadler Minsk had started making trains, trolleybuses, and trams of European quality. The first order the new factory will fulfill is the delivery of double-deck trains for the Moscow transport company Aeroexpress.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko believes it is feasible to continue and expand preferential-rate lending programs for deliveries of Belarusian machines to the Russian market. The implementation of one such program together with Sberbank of Russia has allowed signing about $1.5 billion worth of loan contracts. The same kind of work has begun with VTB Bank.

    The beginning of large-scale cooperation with regions of Russia in civil engineering can be an example of successful integration. The Minsk-based civil engineering company Mapid is busy building a residential area in the city of Kaluga. A Gomel-based construction company is building about 210,000 square meters of housing in Kursk. Cooperation in civil engineering is in progress with Smolensk Oblast and Moscow Oblast. “We are interested in similar projects in other cities of Russia, too,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked. “Belarusian contractors can secure the high quality of construction and installation services and can meet all deadlines. We are also capable of shipping more necessary materials and utilizing our own technologies,” he added.

    Belarusian companies are ready for tight cooperation with Russian partners in government purchases, tenders, and the performance of services for federal and municipal authorities of Russia. The Belarusian side believes the sector to be very promising.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that during the forum of Belarusian and Russian regions the Russian guests can discuss a wide range of bilateral cooperation matters with Belarusian colleagues. He expressed was confidence that such meetings would become another good tradition. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked the leadership of the Federation Council and Valentina Matviyenko personally for the active participation and support for organizing the large-scale event in Minsk.

    Valentina Matviyenko, in turn, stressed that Russia views Belarus as its most important strategic partner. In her words, a delegation of more than 200 representatives from 19 Russian regions has come to Minsk for the first Belarus-Russia regional forum. “It proves Russia’s big interest in the development of interregional cooperation with Belarus,” Valentina Matviyenko said. “We have come to consider the level of our regional cooperation and measures to promote effective contacts,” she emphasized.

    Valentina Matviyenko congratulated the Belarusian side on the 70thanniversary of Belarus’ liberation from Nazi invaders and stressed that the IIHF World Championship in Minsk was a success. “According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, experts and participants, it was the best ice hockey championship in history. This event has promoted the image of Belarus on the international arena, showcased its potential, economic and social development, the investment capacity, hospitality and kindness of people,” she said.

    Speaking about the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that it was just the beginning of integration.

    “I said — and the West is very much concerned about it — that we will go for political and military integration within the framework of the union because economy is the foundation of everything. If there is economy, it provides a uniting effect on people if it is the foundation, we will surely go for the protection of this economy and interests, primarily economic ones,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out that some people say that the UnionState of Belarus and Russia is no longer needed. The President said he believes that the matter of the UnionState’s further existence will be raised when the Eurasian Economic Union has reached the level of integration that the UnionState enjoys now. “We are not there yet,” the Belarusian head of state said.

    “We are often criticized particularly in Russia by people, who claim that Lukashenko is displeased with something and has secured a bargain. I did not bargain for anything. Whether I was displeased or not… Certainly, I was because we initially set out to create a union without exemptions and restrictions. We wanted to create something like a single state at least as far as economic matters are concerned. But when we got close to dealing with these issues, some problems became irresolvable. It is an open secret that it was primarily true for the Russian Federation,” the President noted. He reminded that many agreements had been downgraded from the trilateral level to the bilateral one. “Therefore, on some matters we even moved away from the Customs Union. And we, the three presidents, openly admitted doing so,” Aleksandr Lukashenko added.

    “We were forced to delay the resolution of many issues all the way till 2025. I criticized the idea. It is my only manifestation of displeasure. We had agreed that no exemptions and restrictions would be allowed but then they cropped up and big ones. It lessened the appeal of the union but we resolutely decided that by 2025, which means not in 2025 but much earlier, we will resolve these problems,” the head of state said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that the enhancement of interregional cooperation will be a powerful foundation and the engine of any integration in the post-Soviet space. The President believes it is necessary to get regions of Kazakhstan and Ukraine involved in the process.

    “A new president has been elected in Ukraine. I think we will cooperate with the new president, with the new authorities because people, who live there are no strangers to us, they are just like us, kind, diligent but unlucky to get landed into such a situation. Certainly, we could reject them but then people would suffer even more,” the head of state noted.

    The head of state also mentioned the matter of Western sanctions against Russia.

    “No sanctions will be able to choke Russia,” the President believes. “It is utter nonsense. We need another center of gravity in the world so that we could at last restore the multipolar world. The world cannot rest on one support and swing all the time from side to side. It is our principled view and certainly the West does not like it,” he said.

    “And doing so they do their best to revive us and get us on our feet. We will turn away our eyes from there to revive our lands here. You will see the effect it will bring,” the head of state remarked.

    Governors of Russian regions put forward a number of initiatives at the meeting with the Belarusian President. In particular, they suggested developing a new agribusiness development strategy as part of the Eurasian Economic Union. The strategy can promote the export potential of the union. They also suggested enhancing industrial cooperation, cooperation in the forestry industry, wood processing.

    Governor of Smolensk Oblast Alexei Orstrovsky said that Belarusian specialists could help cultivate farmland in border territories.

    Governor of Amur Oblast Oleg Kozhemyako thanked the Belarusian side for the humanitarian aid provided after the flood in the region.

    T the end of the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed to Belarus’ interest in solid cooperation with Russian regions.

    “I am convinced that the first forum will not be the last one,” the President said.

    According to Valentina Matviyenko, the next forum in Nizhny Novgorod Oblast could be held under the auspices of presidents of Belarus and Russia.

    “I think that there will be no problems from our side. We will find time to attend the forum and to meet with our main partners – the governors,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.