Aleksandr Lukashenko partakes in Supreme Eurasian Economic Council session in Astana

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Belarus does not demand any concessions while promoting Eurasian integration. President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko made the statement at a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council on the level of the heads of state in Astana on 29 May. After the session the sides signed the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty.

“We have been working on the Eurasian integration project for several years and the work was not easy. However, we have always kept in mind our major goal – to cement peace and accord between our nations, to make sure that the development of our countries is based on a solid foundation of mutually beneficial cooperation,” the Belarusian head of state said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the decisions that were made in the past have proved to be right. At first, the CIS was established in order to prevent irreversible disintegration on the post-Soviet space. The CIS was followed by the Eurasian Economic Community, the Customs Union and the future Single Economic Space. “Our integration efforts will culminate in the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. Our country has always held a consistent position on integration. The Belarusian-RussianUnionState remains the core and locomotive of integration in the CIS. Having been the “assembly shop” of the Soviet Union, we were interested, like no one else, in restoring economic contacts on the post-Soviet space. We were willing to respect everyone’s interests without destroying the regional system of the division of labor. More than that, we sought to set up a system where we would not compete, but complement each other. However, the fulfillment of this benevolent goal turned out to be a very complicated and lengthy process,” the President of Belarus said.

“How many opponents emerged both in the West and in the so-called "near abroad"? And not even overseas, but in our countries as well! And not only among the opposition (it is their job to criticize), but also among some government officials (especially liberals). We heard all kinds of complaints! They claimed that integration is about the revival of the Soviet empire and the loss of sovereignty. They compared integration to a “kettlebell tied to the legs of Russia” (if they spoke about Belarus) or Kazakhstan,” Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked.

“However, most of the criticism went to Belarus. Even now mass media are raising hue and cry claiming that “Lukashenko demands concessions!”, “Bonuses for Minsk are bargained”, “Russia or Kazakhstan will assume the burden of Belarus’ economic issues!” I would like to tell these ladies and gentlemen to calm down. Belarus, alongside with Russia and Kazakhstan, is part of a mutual and equitable process. If we share some burden with each other, this will be a mutual process. We are allies in this union,” the Belarusian head of state emphasized.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that the Soviet Union disintegrated when its republics arrived at a decision all of a sudden that they “provide for” others and could have lived better on their own. “Now they bring back this tested bugaboo,” the Belarusian leader noted.

“Belarus does not demand any concessions. Each will contribute something that will benefit all. And this contribution should not be measured only by tonnes, cubic meters and barrels,” the Belarusian President stated.

“We have prepared for the signing of the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty. We have tried our best to promote our interests; we respect the position of our partners; we have carefully analyzed the documents and have acknowledged its strong points. However, I cannot but say that I am not 100% happy with our agreements. There is still room for improvement and the improvements will benefit all the signatories to the treaty,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that Belarus is a sincere and reliable partner. The President expressed hope for mutual understanding and a constructive approach to addressing all issues.

The session in the narrow format was followed by the meeting with President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan and President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev.

According to Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia is eager to sign the agreement to join the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty as soon as possible. Armenia wants to become a full-fledged member of EEU in 2015. “Given we have to elaborate two or three issues and we have already found compromise solutions on these issues, I would like Armenia to be able to sign the agreement on joining the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty by 15 June 2014,” he said.

Almazbek Atambayev said that integration in the Customs Union and then in the Eurasian Economic Union is a well-considered decision and an important vector of economic policy for Kyrgyzstan. “Unfortunately, I cannot say that we will settle all issues within a few days, but we would like to join the union by New Year,” the Kyrgyzstan President remarked.

Presidents of the Troika backed the willingness of partners to join the Eurasian integration project. They agreed to make necessary steps in the near future.

At the same time, Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed that it is essential to fulfil all requirements before the accession of new members. “We have discussed the prospects of accepting our fraternal republics to the union several times. Being an advocate of strengthening and enhancing integration processes in the world and on the post-Soviet space, Belarus welcomes this position,” the Belarusian leader said. “We have come to an agreement and developed a roadmap. As soon as our requirements are fulfiled, these states are ready enough to join the Customs Union, we will welcome them in the union,” he added.

After the meeting Aleksandr Lukashenko, Nursultan Nazarbayev and Vladimir Putin signed the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty.

“Today it is important to look beyond the horizon, to outline the action plan for at least 15-20 years ahead. We should understand that in the first half of the 21st century our union has to achieve two major goals. First, it has to become one of key economic macro-regions in the world. Second, it has to create conditions for all the member states to be the most developed countries in the world,” the President of Kazakhstan believes.

According to the Kazakhstani leader, the sides agreed that the Eurasian Economic Commission, the economic core of the union, will be headquartered in Moscow. The Eurasian Court will sit in Minsk. It will be in charge of the legal aspects of the union. Starting from 2025 Almaty will host the supranational body for the regulation of EEU financial markets.

Russian President Vladimir Putin stressed that the treaty has a huge historical importance. It opens up wide opportunities for the development of economies and promotion of the wellbeing of people.

In his words, big global economic players are interested in the union. “We have agreed to step up negotiations with Vietnam regarding the establishment of the free trade zone, enhance cooperation with the People’s Republic of China in the exchange of customs-related information about goods and services, set up expert groups to work out preferential regimes for the trade with Israel and India,” the Russian President said.

According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the process of the establishment of the Customs Union, the Single Economic Space, and the Eurasian Economic Union had been long and very complicated. “We have lost someone along the way. I mean the Ukraine during Kuchma’s time that started this hard work together with us. But unfortunately the burden has turned out too heavy for Ukraine,” the Belarusian leader remarked.

“But I am sure that sooner or later Ukraine’s leadership will understand where happiness lies. At least they will not lose what should rightly belong to the Ukrainian nation,” the Belarusian President said.

“We have found someone along the long and difficult way like our friends and brothers from Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. A lot of things have happened over these decades but we have been going on, believing in future and without stopping,” the head of state added.

“We pin so much hope on this document. Belarus’ position on the matter has always been open and clear. The country clearly formulated its goals and objectives within the framework of Eurasian integration. Our priorities are well-known, we have declared them sincerely and openly, which often upset some people in our country,” the President of Belarus said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the signing of this far-reaching treaty was preceded by the huge amount of work on the level of the heads of state and other stakeholders. “We are ready to make great strides in implementing the agreements reached during a very difficult negotiating process. At the same time, we should acknowledge that we postponed the solution of a number of issues related to economic cooperation, first of all, mutual trade,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko deems it necessary to keep working on Eurasian integration and materialize all the declared goals and objectives. “The signing of this treaty today is not the end, but just the beginning of a serious process. We should prove to our own selves, the world and our people that we have made the right decisions,” the Belarusian head of state said. We strongly believe that while establishing the Eurasian Economic Union, we should necessarily address the issues that have a great impact on the mutual trade between the EEU member states. This will help us resolve the issues we could not settle at once. We believe that the economic union will become a foundation of our political, military and humanitarian unity,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

After the official meetings the presidents visited the Astana Opera and Ballet Theater and an official dinner on behalf of the Kazakhstan President.

As part of the summit in Astana the parties signed the protocol amending the agreement on trade and economic cooperation in the field of the export of oil and oil products, and the protocol amending the agreement on the order of payment of export customs duties on crude oil and some oil products exported from the Republic of Belarus outside the customs territory of the Customs Union. On behalf of Belarus  the documents were signed by member of the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission Sergei Rumas.