Minsk hosts session of CIS Heads of State Council 

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The Commonwealth of Independent States must be preserved and developed as an important platform for interstate dialogue on a wide range of issues. The statement was made at the session of the CIS Heads of State Council which took place in Minsk on 25 October.

Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee, CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev told participants of the session about the agenda and the procedures and regulations. He remarked that the heads of state were expected to discuss 14 items on the agenda. Sergei Lebedev said that all the documents presented for the attention of the session participants had been reviewed by experts, existing remarks and proposals had been agreed.

At the beginning of the session in the narrow format Aleksandr Lukashenko said that as part of its presidency Belarus had channeled efforts into accomplishing goals in line with the motto “Integration for the Benefit of People”. With this in mind, the Belarusian side has successfully implemented several measures and initiatives regarding security, ecology, green technologies, the expansion of interregional and transboundary cooperation, the dialogue of cultures. Economic partnership was also an important part.

The Belarusian head of state pointed out that vigorous negotiations have begun this year to put together a draft treaty to create a zone for the free trade in services. The interstate program for innovation-driven cooperation also gets filled with concrete content.

The Belarus President reminded that at the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council the day before the heads of state had confirmed that the doors of new associations are open to everyone. “Therefore, it is time for us to think together about additional mechanisms to bolster economic cooperation within the CIS framework,” said the Belarusian leader. “Taking into account the activation of integration processes in the post-Soviet space I believe that our Commonwealth as the oldest integration association should not lag behind”.

Aleksandr Lukashenko mentioned several areas where, he believes, the member states should step up their work.

First, the President of Belarus called on CIS partners to coordinate efforts in the international arena.

“Our countries do not always speak with one voice. Unfortunately, it is evident even at the United Nations. Sometimes our partners support the decisions against the CIS or its individual members. This practice can hardly be considered productive,” the Belarusian leader stressed.

Second, the President of Belarus considers that the efforts at the regional level need to be stepped up. "We need to develop cross-border projects more actively. Then the interest of individual states, their desire to live and work in the CIS will be more palpable,” the Belarusian head of state noted.

Third, Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed out the importance of promoting the CIS among young people. In his view, the states should make greater use of modern information and communication technologies, especially social networks and multimedia platforms.

“I am convinced that these initiatives will allow us to achieve significant results in our cooperation,” the Belarusian leader emphasized.

Speaking about Belarus’ attitude to further development of the CIS, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarus cannot imagine its sovereignty and independence without closest cooperation with the members of the Commonwealth. Apart from that, we will not be a success without cooperation with the nations with whom we have been living as a single family for the past century,” the Belarusian head of state said.

He emphasized that this is Belarus’ principled stance. “Sovereignty, independence, prosperity of the nation can be maintained only in unity with the CIS countries,” the Belarusian leader said. He added that Belarus will remain committed to this principled position.

Aleksandr Lukashenko congratulated Ilham Aliyev on a solid victory at the presidential election in Azerbaijan and wished Emomali Rahmon victory at the forthcoming presidential election in Tajikistan.

The Belarusian head of state asked all participants of the session to share their opinions regarding the agenda and other topics of interest.

According to President of the Russian Federatin Vladimir Putin, the efforts in the CIS should be focused on the economic field, because the economic growth in the CIS member states in 2012 was estimated at 3.4% in 2012, while this year the figure will make up only 1.8%. The same can be said about investments that shrank considerably.

“Naturally, these trends cannot be viewed separately from the situation on the global market, and this situation leaves much to be desired. However, our countries are absolutely capable of shaping their own development agenda, generating ambitious investment projects, and improving business climate without waiting until the situation on the foreign markets gets better,” Vladimir Putin said.

He believes that to be able to withstand the impact of external shocks, the CIS member states need to strengthen integration links.

Speaking about plans to announce the year 2014 the CIS Year of Tourism Vladimir Putin emphasized that among Russia’s priorities is elaboration of the cooperation development strategy in tourism for the period until 2020. “The CIS member states boast a wealth of cultural, historical and natural landmarks. We need to make them more reachable, develop the regional transport infrastructure, invest in the construction of joint facilities,” the Russian President said.

He mentioned Belarus-Russia joint project to create a tourist water way on the DnieperRiver along the ancient trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks.

Due to the fact that Ukraine will assume chairmanship in the CIS in 2014, President Viktor Yanukovych outnumbered a number of priority issues for the period.

In particular, Ukraine will draw special attention to further development of trade and economic cooperation which should be based on the provisions of the free trade agreement and WTO principles. “We are convinced that this agreement should gain full strength and the mechanisms envisaged in it should be made full use of. We need to create all necessary conditions for securing equal competition, protecting the rights of the owner and the investor, removing artificial barriers which are still in place and continue inhibiting trade and innovation cooperation,” Viktor Yanukovych said.

“Not least important is that the mechanisms for addressing trade disputes laid down in the agreement and based on international norms and principles should become effective,” Viktor Yanukovych added.

Ukraine’s efforts will be also aimed at preparation of the agreements on pipeline transit, trade in services and the protocol on phased abolition of export duties.

According to Viktor Yanukovych, the CIS member states have shared interests in joint projects in sci-tech and innovation fields, energy, transport, mechanical engineering, agriculture. “Ukraine views the energy sector as the most important aspect of cooperation in the CIS. First of all, it is the cooperation in energy transportation, securing reliability of supplies, elaboration of clear principles on the energy market,” the President of Ukraine said.

In his words, there is a need to expand cooperation in the areas directly related to electricity supply. There are plans to conduct a number of international conferences, roundtables and meetings.

Ukraine plans to attach special attention to cultural and humanitarian cooperation, with a focus on the preparations to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. The President of Ukraine offered to hold the next session of the CIS Heads of State Council in Kyiv in October 2014. It can be timed to this anniversary.

Viktor Yanukovych expressed gratitude to Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko for successful chairmanship in the CIS in 2013. “It is my belief that Belarus has done a great job expanding cooperation within the CIS for the benefit of every individual,” he said.

In turn, on behalf of all the CIS heads of state Aleksandr Lukashenko wished Ukraine successful chairmanship in 2014. “The program you have presented today is extensive and unique,” the Belarusian leader noted.

President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych also spoke about Ukraine’s plans to sign the association agreement with the European Union. He believes that Ukraine will be able to find a compromise with the Customs Union after signing the agreement.

The Ukrainian side suggested forming a permanent consultative body Ukraine-European Union-Customs Union and hopes the initiative will be supported. Viktor Yanukovych noted that the issue was discussed with the European Commission. “It has nothing against us seeking ways to remove barriers in trade between our countries,” the President of Ukraine said.

Other participants of the session upheld all the matters included into the agenda of the summit. They pledged to facilitate the all-round cooperation between the CIS member states. Moreover, everyone pointed out the importance of joining efforts to gear up for the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War.

“We have a duty to instill pride in younger generations for the heroism of our peoples in the fight against the fascism, firmly oppose various falsifications and attempts to justify Nazi collaborators,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “I am sure that the decisions we have adopted today will attract more public attention to this subject,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

At the begging of the extended session of the CIS Heads of State Council Aleksandr Lukashenko informed its participants about the results of the country’s chairmanship in the CIS.

He stressed that Belarus fulfilled all obligations. "A lot has been done. Belarus has fulfilled all of your instructions and implemented the plan of action," the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that during its CIS chairmanship Belarus tried to inject dynamism in the interaction between the CIS countries on all fronts.

In his words, the emphasis was made on economic cooperation, the work on the preparation of the draft treaty on free trade in services, the development of cross-sectoral and industrial cooperation. First of all it applies to such areas as transport, energy, agriculture, telecommunications, nano- and biotechnology and outer space.

The Belarusian head of state noted that the impetus was given to the cooperation between economic entities of the CIS countries. In his view, this has been facilitated by the Forum of Business People in Belarus, the Belarusian Industrial Forum, international and regional conferences, exhibitions and fairs.

The project to build the CIS common agricultural market has been in the focus as well.

"Our partners were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the development of interregional and cross-border cooperation in Belarus, which is an important factor in strengthening relations between the neighboring states," the Belarusian leader said.

Work to develop the single system for the prevention of natural and man-made disasters has been made systematic.

Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Belarus is holding the chairmanship in the Wear of Environmental Culture and Environment Protection. “We sought to ensure that the well-being of our common home is a daily concern for every citizen of the CIS,” the Belarusian head of state said. According to him, that was why the Belarusian side initiated the agreement on cooperation in the field of environmental protection. Belarus suggested a list of the regional green energy projects, came up with specific ideas for further modernization of the economies of the CIS through the widespread adoption of environmentally sound technologies. According to the President of Belarus, this involves innovation, greater use of renewable energy, local fuels.

In order to enhance intercultural dialogue, work was continued to develop the information and educational space of the CIS. Minsk hosted the 8th CIS Forum of Creative and Scientific Intellectuals. The event outlined the important areas of transboundary environmental, cultural, educational and scientific cooperation, the President said.

“We also identified the prospects of cooperation between the CIS and other international organizations, in particular UNESCO,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Such special events as the 8th Belarusian International Media Forum and Minsk International Book Fair have contributed to the expansion of cooperation in the field of information. In this regard Aleksandr Lukashenko praised the effort of Mir TV Company to give more airtime to the CIS affairs. According to the Belarusian leader, the decisions adopted this year to build the common educational space open up new opportunities for citizens.

The President of Belarus believes that the CIS is not at the end of its road. The association will seek opportunities for cooperation with the centers of power that have emerged around the Commonwealth.

“We cannot afford losing the CIS as a platform for dialogue,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“Many have said lately that a lot of centers of power have emerged around the Commonwealth of Independent States and the centers attract our countries in one way or another. It is true,” the Belarusian head of state agreed. “But to those, who go nearly as far as saying the CIS is extinct due to the emergence of new integration associations, I would like to say that we are going to cooperate with these centers of power,” the Belarusian leader said. He added that ways to collaborate with China and the European Union are sought.

“But the factors that unite us are unlikely to get us united with those centers of power. Figuratively speaking, we think the same language in addition to speaking the same language. Because of that we cannot afford losing the Commonwealth of Independent States as a great platform for dialogue,” the Belarusian leader said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that the Belarusian side had very seriously prepared for the event in order to demonstrate that the independence and wellbeing of the nation depends primarily on cooperation with the CIS states. The President said he believes that it will always be like that in Belarusian politics. Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that the CIS states should work as hard as they do in order to secure tighter cooperation in all areas. “We must not lose each other in this turbulent world,” the Belarusian leader said.

At the end of the session he Belarusian head of state said that those present discussed many important issued and expressed confidence that the decisions they had made meet the interests of all CIS member states and their citizens.

At the same time, the Belarusian head of state reminded about the statement that had been made before Belarus assumed chairmanship in the CIS about the fact that the Commonwealth would welcome the return of Georgia into the CIS.

Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that several years ago Georgia seceded from the Commonwealth of Independent States. “It seems there were certain internal incentives for that step back then. But life goes on. We still live next to each other and will do so,” the Belarusian head of state said.

“I can sincerely state and it is not only my opinion that we would like Georgia to return into the Commonwealth,” stressed the Belarusian leader. “I think Georgia will hear this message,” he added.

According to the Belarus President, there are many people in Georgia, including in the leadership, who would like to have a platform to discuss not only politics but also economic matters.

“I think that in order to switch from words to deeds we should not look for the things that disunite us. We should seek what unites us and we will reap relevant benefits from doing so. In the end everyone will appreciate it, including our people in the Commonwealth and people in Georgia,” the Belarusian President stressed.

“I would like us to keep remembering that our Commonwealth is a living being and any living being needs to develop,” the Belarusian leader added.

In turn, President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych said that Georgia is always welcome in the CIS.

The summiteers discussed a big number of issues related to the fight against the main present-day challenges: terrorism and law offenses.

The heads of state approved the program on cooperation against terrorism and other manifestations of extremism for 2014-2016 and the program of cooperation in combating drugs addiction and illegal turnover of narcotic substances for 2014-2018.

The parties also adopted an interstate program of joint measures to combat crime for 2014-2018.

Besides, the CIS heads of state coordinated the program on cooperation against human trafficking for 2014-2018. President of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized Belarus’ considerable efforts in the fight against trafficking in human persons. The country has repeatedly suggested intensifying cooperation in this area both as part of bilateral cooperation and in various international organizations, including the United Nations.

The heads of state also approved the agreement on the establishment of the Interstate Anticorruption Council and the concept on cooperation against cybercrime.

As far as cultural cooperation is concerned, the heads of state adopted a decision to implement the interstate program, the CIS Capitals of Culture, in 2014. Almaty in Kazakhstan and Osh in Kyrgyzstan have been named the CIS Capitals of Culture in 2014.

Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the veterans who fought for freedom and independence of the Motherland are treated with great respect in Belarus. He drew attention to the fact that during the Belarusian chairmanship a big work was carried out on the preparations for the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory. Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that Ukraine, who is taking over the Presidency of the CIS next year, will also give serious attention to these issues.

The CIS has declared the year 2015 the Year of the Veterans of the Great Patriotic War. The heads of state also adopted a decision to establish the commemorative medal for the 70th anniversary of the Victory of the Soviet people in 1945.

Moreover, the year 2014 has been declared the Year of Tourism. Aleksandr Lukashenko said that attracting additional attention to the tourism potential of the CIS countries will strengthen the image of the CIS in the world and expand contacts between citizens.

Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed gratitude to all his CIS counterparts for visiting Minsk and expressed hope to see them again soon during the 2014 IIHF World Championship in the Belarusian capital.

On 24-25 October Minsk hosted two summits: the session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the meeting of the CIS Heads of State.

The Presidents of the CIS countries also planted trees in the Alley of Distinguished Guests neat the Palace of Independence. When planting trees the CIS leaders were assisted by representatives of Belarusian youth wearing the national costumes of the CIS member states.