Belarus is eager to develop integration processes

On meeting with heads of CIS media, Alexander Lukashenko emphasises that CIS must be encouraged as single ground for dialogue and elaboration of joint decisions
By Vladimir Khromov

The press conference took place in the run-up to the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council (at the level of heads of state) and the CIS Heads of State Council. Belarus is clearly eager to develop integration processes and views its current chairmanship of the CIS as a great responsibility. Media interest is understandable, so it was no surprise to see those from across the CIS keen to ask questions to the Head of the Belarusian state. The meeting with the President was attended by the Chairman of the Mir Interstate TV and Radio Company, alongside editors-in-chief and directors of leading media from Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Ukraine. Leaders of major Belarusian media were also present for the planned 1.5 hour conference, which the President allowed to continue for three hours.

Mr. Lukashenko spoke with editors about integration processes in the context of the contemporary international situation, where integration is a leading trend politically and economically. It seems that the CIS, the Customs Union, the Single Economic Space and the Eurasian Economic Union will soon become a serious driving force within the international arena. The President of Belarus covered various topics for the press, on the eve of the top level meetings.

Some have questioned the relevance of the CIS in a world of so many centres of power. Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus are building the Eurasian Economic Union while Ukraine, Moldova and, partially, Armenia are keen to expand their ties with the EU. Of course, China, in Central Asia, is rapidly becoming the world’s leading force. Paradoxically, CIS member states continue to pursue diverse policies while, at the same time, realising the need to join forces; accordingly, a common venue for dialogue is vital.

Considering the willingness of a number of countries to join the future Eurasian Economic Union, it should gain equal status on the global geopolitical chessboard with the EU. Interests must be balanced, showing that the integration of integrations is a viable idea. By negotiating together with united Europe, more fruit will be borne than through separate talks by each separate CIS member state. Individually, talks are often conducted on humiliating terms but, together, we are a force with which to be reckoned.

In creating the Eurasian Economic Commission, we have already compromised our sovereignty, to some extent. As far as Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia are concerned, no problems exist. However, we must appreciate which aspects of sovereignty can be transferred to supranational bodies comprising our Kazakh, Belarusian and Russian people. We’ve created a corresponding body from our people and entrusted it to govern. Yes, we are an independent and sovereign state but, if we see something we desire, and are willing to pay the price, we’ll pursue it. We’ve given much thought and hesitated, as Russia and Kazakhstan have done, seeing the true advantages: economic and financial.

Principles of state construction
All states should value their own people. A state for the people is our motto: a social state, rather than socialist. We don’t reject planning and each country has its own budget. We are setting 12 major spheres of development: from GDP to employment. Moreover, the All-Belarus People’s Assembly meets once every five years to approve the concept and promising developments for at least the coming five years... We don’t reject any of this but it’s different from the planning of Soviet days, with the main difference being competition. We have to accept it without a second thought and, where it is fair, there will be no stagnation in society or the economy.

Abolishing restrictions across the Customs Union
If we agree, then let’s create a real single economy, removing any restrictions. For example, if the Kazakhs would like to pump oil through Belarus, using shared pipes, then let’s have equal access. If Kazakhstan would like to supply its produce to Belarus and Europe using the railways of Kazakhstan and Russia, we should enjoy equal conditions. So far, we’ve had many withdrawals, as you’re well aware.

Oil, natural gas, special regimes and withdrawals are important for Russia. But why should Russia be afraid of Belarus? Will we knock you down or eat you? Our economy accounts for only 5-7 percent of that of Russia. We do have several issues with Russia but we’ll remove them from January 1st.

Common values of post-Soviet states
It’s good to share common values, and they do exist. Nevertheless, we are yet to speak of our common values. Maybe, we’re too bashful but I do believe that we have truer values than those of the West. You know where Western values are turned… What about our high spiritual culture? Our tolerance? Our sincerity and humanity? I think these stem from our common Soviet period, when we sought to appear better than the West. Why don’t we speak about this? I think we’ll return to it one day.
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