Border protection envisages economic security of the state

President of Belarus and Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces, Alexander Lukashenko, approves a decision on the protection of the state border in 2016

President of Belarus and Commander-in-Chief of the country’s Armed Forces, Alexander Lukashenko, approves a decision on the protection of the state border in 2016.

State border protection

This year, the situation requires a more detailed consideration of all aspects of border security: from economic aspects to counteracting international criminality. We see what’s happening elsewhere in the world, in neighbouring Europe and at the borders of our state. The tension is increasing if anything rather than lessening. Mr. Lukashenko outlined significant factors which must be taken into account.

The border is essentially the crossing point of global commercial interests. This is especially acute for Belarus as a transit country, since flows of commodities through it account for a large part of the state budget. Therefore, civil representatives of the Security Council were also invited to the discussion at the Independence Palace. The President proposed that the Government should work harder to protect the state’s economic interests at the border but no definite measures have been decided on so far. A special group of independent experts, formed by the Head of the Administration, Alexander Kosinets, will provide a detailed assessment of the situation.

Attention should be focused on a range of key points: customs duties and permissions, as well as tariff and non-tariff regulation — all aspects of the domestic market protection, in line with the norms of international trade. It’s not necessarily the most efficient model to work for someone else abroad. Of course, industry, particularly light industry and manufacturing, has to branch out to popularise and sell its products in other markets. Our entrepreneurial tailors for example, make goods which rival those from abroad. Are large enterprises any worse?

Individual entrepreneurs however, should no longer expect preferential treatment as far as international trade is concerned. The President reminded the group of businessmen about the gentleman’s agreement, signed with him last year. At that time, they were all grateful for a period of grace and agreed to begin working with all proper documentation and meeting trading standards regulations from the new year. This will now be applied as a matter of course with no exceptions.

We see what’s happening in Europe which is overwhelmed with the inflow of migrants who can also bring terror and criminality. We don’t want to close our borders to genuine refugees so we have a system where our immigration services personally see each person whom they give permission to live in Belarus, with priority given to families. It wouldn’t be wise to let these things slide.

The President reminded us of photographs of Belarusian citizens, fighting in Ukraine, which have appeared on social networks. Our laws are clear that whatever nationality they are is irrelevant if they are involved in illegal activity, our country does not need gunmen.

Belarus has again found itself at the centre of politico-economical twists and turns between neighbouring states. Today, serious changes in trade rules between Ukraine and the EU and Russia arouse concerns and the President clearly described our situation, “We’re once again between a rock and a hard place.”

On the one hand, Belarus has to fulfil its obligations in the Eurasian Economic Union before the Russian Federation. However, our national interests shouldn’t be pushed to the background. Ukraine trades with Kazakhstan, China and other countries and we shouldn’t place obstacles in the way of this. The most important thing is to ensure transparency of commodity flows. This will fit the context of agreements of the Eurasian Economic Union. Meanwhile, our mutual trade with Ukraine shouldn’t be lost. It accounts for $5-6bn of annual trade turnover — an impressive amount.

The President is keen to promote good neighbourly relations with adjoining states, within strict consideration of one’s own interests.

In recent times, many initiatives have been voiced regarding the simplification of the border crossing regime for residents of the trans-boundary regions. The President isn’t against the idea if this refers to people who have relatives in the neighbouring village which is in another country, or whose relatives are buried there. However, it’s unacceptable in the current political climate to simply open the borders. This could create trade or, if truth be told, contraband loopholes. 

Much has been done in this respect and the border infrastructure will be strengthened further, including with technical assistance from our neighbours. We have to bring to a logical end the demarcation of our southern borders. Yes, the Ukrainian colleagues of our border guards sometimes view the work unenthusiastically, but this doesn’t mean that we should stop. If there’s no opportunity to complete the works together, then we should complete our part alone and openly inform our neighbours of the actions taken.

In total, the activity of the State Border Committee is satisfactory. However, control won’t be weakened. The Security Council has been instructed to regularly conduct inspections of the level of professionalism of those who serve directly at the border. All issues dealing with enhancement of the border service’s combat effectiveness should be primarily solved at the expense of the department: budgetary constraints are in place but it would be wise to consider fewer administrative offices if this means that greater attention can be given directly to the borders. 

The Commander-in-Chief has approved the decision on the protection of the state border in 2016, with the tasks set and accepted for execution.


Alexander Lukashenko:

The difficulty is that we have to count only on our own powers. We can complain for enhanced military activity in the West, instability in the neighbouring countries, unprecedented escalation of the situation in the Middle East or powerful economic misbalances which have aroused because of this. However, all these won’t rescue us from conditions in which we find ourselves. We shouldn’t forget that we need to reliably protect our borders ourselves, as well as economic security, political security, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

By Vasily Kharitonov

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