Session of Supreme State Council of Union State

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Belarus and Russia are set to go on with a constructive dialogue across all areas of cooperation. They will take maximum advantage of the opportunities offered by the Union State to boost sustainable development of the two countries and improve living standards of the nations. Such issues were discussed at the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Belarus and Russia in Minsk on 19 June.

Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir mentioned the productivity and constructive character of the negotiations. “I am convinced that today we have managed to give a powerful impetus to the fraternal partnership of Belarus and Russia,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He emphasized a special format of the Supreme State Council. “It looks like Belarus is the only country where Russia’s entire political establishment goes all at once. We appreciate that,” the Belarusian leader said.

“Disputable issues that arise sometimes in the Belarusian-Russian relations will be traditionally handled in the spirit of mutual understanding and compromise. This is already being done by our authorities. The commitment to this has been reaffirmed during my meeting with Vladimir Putin and during the session of the Supreme State Council,” the Belarusian leader said.

The Supreme State Council Summit was preceded by the one-on-one negotiations between Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin. During more than two hours the sides discussed various aspects of the bilateral relations.

The agenda of the Supreme State Council Summit included nine issues. All of them were harmonized earlier, so a decision was made to focus on only three major issues. The participants of the session made decisions regarding the program of concerted foreign policy activities for 2018-2019, the priority avenues and goals of the Union State development in 2018-2022 (including the harmonization of the macroeconomic, industrial, budget policy, deepening of the trade and economic relations, formation of the single legal space and development of the institutional norms of the Union State). The meeting also focused on the fulfillment of the previous resolutions of the Supreme State Council.

On the whole, the Supreme State Council session discussed bilateral cooperation, integration and economic contacts. “Our project is a sustainable platform for strengthening Belarus-Russia relations. The major goal remains unchanged – faster social and economic development of the two states and higher living standards for our peoples,” the Belarusian head of state said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that in 2017 the sides reversed the decline in mutual trade. Today, it is important to cement the positive trends and to ensure that the trade between the two countries keeps growing, including by means of removing mutual barriers and exemptions and creating an equal competitive environment. “Lately, issues have often been transferred from one integration organization to another, for example, to the Eurasian Economic Union. I think we should stop doing it because the Union State is fully capable of addressing such issues. If any problems obstruct our relations, we should deal with them here and now. In order to find a consensus, there is no need to discuss issues with the countries that are not involved in them,” the President noted.

Aleksandr Lukashenko pointed to the coordinating role of the Union State Standing Committee. It should ensure systemic and continuous interaction of corresponding ministries and agencies of Belarus and Russia. He asked State Secretary of the Union State Grigory Rapota to think things through and clearly see the balance of interests of the parties across the issues discussed by the Standing Committee. “A week ago I instructed the government to have Grigory Rapota at all the talks. They should be in the know; they should be familiar with the matter. It would be good if the Standing Committee members also take part in a discussion of disputable issues,” the President said.

Aleksandr Lukashenko remarked that Belarus-Russia cooperation in foreign policy matters is systemic and multifaceted. Belarus and Russia rely on the same or similar views on the main problems of the modern world and support each other in international organizations. The Belarusian and Russian ministries of foreign affairs interact in a productive manner as they implement authorized programs, the Belarusian leader was convinced.

“We will continue to coordinate approaches to the problems of regional and pan-European security, and jointly counteract new challenges and threats," Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

The head of state noted that protecting the interests of citizens of both countries represents a special part in the efforts to build and enhance the Union State of Belarus and Russia. “A corresponding level of various rights and freedoms for securing these interests has already been fully enabled. At least, the Union State of Belarus and Russia has advanced farther than any other integration project. Some issues may happen, for instance, the crossing of the Belarusian-Russian border. We’ve agreed that we will resolve the problem soon,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

“We understand the Russian stance on border control in view of the need to take care of security of the world football championship going on in Russia. But we expect that all the outstanding issues concerning the crossing of the Belarusian-Russian border have to be addressed,” the Belarus President stated.

The head of state emphasized that interregional ties remain the key to the success of the integration project. More than 80 regions of the Russian Federation maintain trade and economic relations with Belarus. Three hundred agreements on cooperation have been signed between regions and municipalities concluded. Joint forums of regions of Belarus and Russia have been held since 2014. The next forum will be held in Mogilev in October this year.

Aleksandr Lukashenko has renewed his invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to attend the forum.

The Belarusian President noted that life never stands still and we should keep moving forward. He emphasized the importance of joint efforts in dealing with global challenges.

The participants of the Supreme State Council Summit also made a number of pending decisions. They passed a resolution to present Union State prizes in literature and art in 2017-2018. Besides, the Union State prize in science and technology was instituted. It will be presented to the citizens of Belarus and Russia in recognition of the outstanding joint research results, scientific discoveries and other achievements once in two years starting from 2019.

Speaking about the cooperation in agriculture, the Belarusian President said: “Here is an interesting fact, which may have fallen under the radar. Russia supplies more agricultural products to Belarus per capita than Belarus supplies to Russia. We are accustomed to hearing that Belarus exports a lot. But in per capita terms Russia supplies more to Belarus than Belarus does to Russia. I am not going to specify the figures. Look them up. But the ratio is much larger. Russians feed us more food than we feed Russians.”

Vladimir Putin said that the meeting with the Belarusian President was productive. “In the traditionally friendly and constructive atmosphere we discussed the entire range of topical aspects of the Russian-Belarusian cooperation,” he said. In his words, international cooperation was also touched upon during the talks.

The Russian President also expressed interest in the development of the Union State and enhancement of the political and economic integration with Belarus. Vladimir Putin said that last year the Belarusian-Russian trade turnover went up 23.5% to $32.4 billion. The bilateral trade has also been on the rise this year. “We are capable of raising our mutual trade to $50 billion,” he said.

The Russian head of state considers it important to improve the business and investment climate, to carry out the agreed financial, credit, and tax policies, to continue the harmonization of regulatory activities. He also urged to take additional steps to enhance industrial cooperation between Belarus and Russia.

According to Vladimir Putin, there are good prospects for the development of cooperation in the energy sector. He pointed out that the first power generating unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant will be commissioned at the end of next year, while the second power generating unit will be inaugurated in 2020. Belarus and Russia are also implementing joint projects to upgrade gas pipelines.

Vladimir Putin believes that the two countries need to scale up efforts to increase the output of science-intensive products. “It is important to encourage Russian and Belarusian business people to incorporate innovations in the real production sector and to reward scientists and other specialists for implementing new technology,” he said.

The Russian President expects that the 5thForum of the Regions of Belarus and Russia to come forward with new initiatives.

After the negotiations Aleksandr Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin exchanged presents. The Belarusian head of state presented a painting of Vladimir Putin’s home city St. Petersburg to his Russian counterpart. The President of Russia gave a souvenir set and a samovar with the symbols of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Belarusian leader wished good luck to Russia in the football match in St. Petersburg. “We hope that Russia will be a success. We are supporting you,” he said.