20 years on…
[b]CIS celebrates jubilee with summit analysing strengths and weaknesses [/b]This year, the Commonwealth of Independent States is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organisation’s history is no less complicated than the history of its separate members. It was founded on the ruins of a huge ‘empire’ — the USSR, with the purpose of a ‘civilised divorce’ (as many would say).
This year, the Commonwealth of Independent States is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The organisation’s history is no less complicated than the history of its separate members. It was founded on the ruins of a huge ‘empire’ — the USSR, with the purpose of a ‘civilised divorce’ (as many would say).
The CIS coped well in the first decade of its existence but, over the course of time, the need to restore lost ties became increasingly apparent. Nobody believes the Commonwealth to be utterly useless, since diverse projects aim to ensure its consolidation — including the creation of a free trade zone. However, it faces challenges from time to time — such as when conflict arose in Georgia and it desired to leave the CIS. Younger and more energetic integration associations — such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and the Customs Union — are coming to the fore. The recent CIS summit, held in Dushanbe in early September, indicated that our eleven countries are still keen to promote partnership and further strengthen integration. At the President’s order, Belarus was represented at the top level meeting by Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich.
The summit celebrated its jubilee with red-carpet meetings between heads of state while its agenda tackled 11 issues. These included a study of the report Results of CIS Activity over 20 Years and Tasks for the Future. The heads of national delegations acknowledged the CIS’ historical role in preserving and strengthening relations within the post-Soviet space.
CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev has his own opinion on the subject, saying, “I’m convinced that the Commonwealth — formed in late 1991 on the wave of global geopolitical change — has helped solve the most vital issues relating to the USSR’s collapse. The development of undesirable events during unpredictable times was prevented, as was the full destruction of historically established ties within the post-Soviet space. Much owing to the CIS, trade-economic relations have remained strong or have transformed. Co-operation in the field of security has been established, while the necessary legislation for humanitarian interaction has been passed.”
Interstate conflicts still exist on one-sixth of the planet. In Tajikistan, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and Azerbaijani Prime Minister Artur Rasizade discussed the Nagorny Karabakh dispute. However, conflicts are currently frozen, with the peace keeping process underway. Progress is slow but this is certainly a major achievement of the CIS in its two decades of operation.
Hardships of growth
The heads of state also highlighted certain problems, stressing the need for a free trade zone and an interstate targeted programme of innovative co-operation. This is Minsk’s priority, focusing on practical feedback.
Various talks took place, including discussion of the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine. Summarising the CIS’ achievements and hardships, the President of Russia (the largest country and the USSR’s legal successor), stressed, “Much of what is being debated is fair and correct. However, Russia considers that we must not belittle the significance of this structure or its historical role in maintaining stability within the post-Soviet space. Our CIS states have now found an optimal scheme of co-operation which ensures flexibility of participation. No other alternative to the CIS exists. It is a single platform for the provision of co-operation between interested states in all possible spheres of interaction. I want to assure you, dear colleagues, that this position will remain unchanged for Russia.”
The Russian President then focused on the organisation’s observation of elections and referenda among the CIS states. He believes that international observers sometimes demonstrate an openly politicised approach and double standards. The CIS has its own observation mission, in addition to a group of observers from the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly. “We all naturally strive to conduct free and democratic elections. However, this does not mean that an open door exists to external forces, allowing them to influence from outside. With this in mind, it’s crucial that we ensure a more active role for CIS missions in observing elections in our countries,” the Russian President asserted.
In Dushanbe, PM Mr. Myasnikovich noted that, taking into account global challenges and uncertainty, the Commonwealth is a factor of stability which would benefit from further development. He is certain that, despite criticism of the CIS, the organisation boasts many positive aspects, aiding the co-ordination of political, economic and humanitarian issues. “I think that occasional discord is fine, since it is never permanent and leads to no break in relations,” he stressed.
The Prime Minister stated that the CIS has the advantage of promptly realising joint projects. “Our signed agreement on recognition of our nations’ bravery and heroism during the Great Patriotic War is the best indicator of our unity in assessing the past and, accordingly, a co-ordinated future path,” said Mr. Myasnikovich. On assessing prospects for the organisation’s development, he stressed the necessity of setting up joint companies and strengthening business collaboration. “Our country has initiated the strengthening of innovative partnership within the CIS,” he added.
According to Mr. Myasnikovich, the CIS’ accumulated experience is of benefit to the Customs Union. “We’ve seriously advanced within the Customs Union but the acceptance of new members should be conducted thoroughly — to avoid a situation of inequality,” he said. Mr. Myasnikovich stressed that those building the Customs Union must take on certain obligations even when they are unprofitable. “Each country must understand that it may win in some aspects but need to yield in others,” he added.
During the summit, the Prime Minister held talks with other CIS leaders. In particular, he discussed co-operation in the energy sphere with Dmitry Medvedev, focusing on the construction of a nuclear power station and on a co-ordinated policy in achieving a single exchange rate for the Belarusian rouble. “Our talks with Dmitry Medvedev were productive, discussing almost every issue on the agenda — primarily relating to Belarus,” Mr. Myasnikovich said. He noted, “Orders will be given to ensure that the agreements reached at the top level by presidents and heads of government are fulfilled by the corresponding agencies.”
Summing up the results of his trip to Tajikistan, Mr. Myasnikovich emphasised that the Belarusian delegation fulfilled its aims. Belarus has always been and will remain an active supporter of integration within the CIS.
By Igor Slavinski