Meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council

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The Eurasian Economic Union must be based on a full-fledged Customs Union. There should be no restrictions on the movement of goods between its members, no matter how sensitive they are, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Minsk on 29 April.

Before the meeting, the leaders of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia had a two-hour informal meeting and exchanged views on economic issues, the problems, the prospects for relations and also some issues of the international agenda.

The agenda for the meeting suggested two important topics: the progress on the draft treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union and the so-called "road map" on Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Aleksandr Lukashenko had to admit that there are already a number of matters on which the partners disagree and the list of these issues is alarming. “We gathered here to resolve them,” he said.

“Little time is left before we sign the treaty. A question arises: with what will we approach the union?” the Belarusian leader asked.

“They suggest leaving unresolved issues as they are, though these issues were supposed to be removed at the previous stages. We strongly believe that we should reach certain milestones, one of them is a full-fledged Customs Union. No restrictions should be left between its member states, no matter how sensitive these issues are,” the Belarusian President said. In his view a negative precedent will be created if the partners preserve any restrictions on the movement of goods, in particular, energy.

“The approaches put forward during the talks arouse many questions. Some suggest implementing certain agreements in 10 years, that is by 2025, which sounds odd, to put it mildly. If we are not ready to do it now, we should openly admit it,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko believes that the efficiency of the union will be crucial for its attractiveness to other states. “The union itself should acquire bigger integrity from its expansion,” the Belarusian leader said.

“No one pushes us. We set the time schedule ourselves. But I think that we should not turn it into the process for the sake of the process,” the President said.

Belarus suggests admitting new members on a package principle, providing no special conditions and statuses. “I believe it will be fair, first of all, in respect to our countries that implemented every stage of this integration process in full,” the head of state said.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev views the current disagreements on the way to the Eurasian Economic Union as resolvable. He noted that the parties have done a lot of work; other partners show interest in the new union. The Kazakh President also drew attention to the fact that this year marks the 20th anniversary of Eurasian integration.

Russian President Vladimir Putin acknowledged that there are a number of outstanding issues regarding the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEC). Yet he expressed confidence hat the parties can further explore them and find a compromise.

According to him, the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan is already functional and yields real benefits. "We see the results in the economic performance of our countries. This is absolutely obvious,” he said. “But we can take one more step (we have agreed on that), one step further to deepen our cooperation, to advance our cooperation to a higher level,” said the Russian President.  “This will allow us to improve the competitiveness of the economies and make them more efficient, to attract domestic and foreign investment. The huge market of 170 million people which we have created can acquire a completely new quality, become more attractive, more effective and meaningful,” said Vladimir Putin.

The presidents instructed the governments to finalize all the details of the treaty in the shortest time possible and submit the document for signing at the Troika summit in Astana on 29 May. This task has been set before the Eurasian Economic Commission and the governments of the three countries.

The draft treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union is a large 600-page document. It includes a big number of codified documents of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space, about 70 international treaties, and also the new rules which have been developed in furtherance of the draft treaty and which apply to the segments of the common market which were not there earlier, particularly the energy sector, the market for services.

The draft treaty of the Eurasian Economic Union offers the basic framework for the energy market which suggests the following.

The parties agreed that common gas and oil markets would become operational no later than 2025. The common electricity market will be launched a little earlier, because the preparation for it was in progress for two years. In 2016, the presidents will approve the concept for each of these markets: oil, oil products and gas. The program to develop these markets will be approved in 2018.

In order to launch the common markets the three countries will need to sign international treaties which are set out in the draft Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union.

By 2025 the issues related to cooperation in the area of oil, oil products and gas will be settled in line with the current agreements signed in 2010 and in correspondence with the additional bilateral agreements that will be signed to secure a cooperation status satisfying all the parties for the whole period of the common market development.

As for Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space, the document will be drafted by 1 June 2014 and will be submitted for consideration of the heads of state at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting in Astana on 29 May.

The Presidents approved the work on the roadmap for Armenia’s accession to the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space. A total of 111 out of 126 points of the roadmap have been fulfilled so far. Fifteen of them are included into Armenia’s CU/SES entry agreement.

On the same day Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko and President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan exchanged views on the prospects for the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union prior to the meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council at the level of the heads of state in Minsk.

Speaking about the bilateral relations, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed to the absence of problems in the Belarusian-Kazakh relations. "Even in difficult times, when the international trade is shrinking, the Belarusian-Kazakh trade is growing. If some problems emerge, they are quickly addressed by the intergovernmental commission,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

For his part, Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed that the bilateral relations have been developing rapidly. In his words, work should be stepped up in mechanical engineering, industry and other areas.

The President of Kazakhstan praised the bilateral cooperation and noted as important the forthcoming 2014 IIHF World Championship and the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from the Nazis in Minsk.