Format of rapprochement decided

The construction of the Belarus-Russia Union State has slightly faded into insignificance, superseded by the development of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space. However, many of the integration stages currently experienced by the ‘trio’ have been already passed in the format of ‘duo’.

By Vladimir Vasiliev

Practical work continues within the Union State, which remains the closest inter-state structure within the post-Soviet space. It is a model structure for rapprochement in a wider format. President Alexander Lukashenko recently met the State Secretary of the Union State, Grigory Rapota, to discuss prospects.

Mr. Rapota was only appointed to his post in December 2011 but has experience in integration issues, having been General Secretary of the EurAsEC from 2001-2007. He has visited Minsk many times but this was his first meeting in his new position with Mr. Lukashenko — the Chairman of the Union State Supreme State Council.

Mr. Lukashenko noted Mr. Rapota’s familiarity with the newly elected President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and recalled his recent conversation with Mr. Putin. He explained that Mr. Putin’s first words were: ‘We need to further develop our integration and be closer to each other’. Mr. Lukashenko continued, “Time, situation and environment prove this, showing that we don’t need to look about us to see how we’re assessed by others. We should focus on our own people — how they assess us in Russia and Belarus. We would better act in this direction.”

Mr. Rapota agrees with this approach and later, speaking to journalists, noted that various mechanisms of interaction exist between our two states: the Union State programmes have already proven popular. “This form enables us to invest Union State funds into the development of new technologies. It’s promising and will be developed further.” However, according to the guest, the mechanism for such programmes is rather unwieldy, needing improvement.

Another form of collaboration — envisaged by joint projects — is yet to receive adequate development. Mr. Rapota explained, “This isn’t a game; projects enable us to attract private funds in addition to public, and those organised as public-private partnership. This gives a wide choice of liaisons but is simpler to implement.”

“Mr. Lukashenko supports this approach, aiming to expand our spheres of co-operation and, in particular, regarding this issue,” noted the State Secretary of the Union State after negotiations with the Belarusian President. He added that the Chairman of the Union State Supreme State Council has asked that the Council of Ministers and the Supreme State Council meet more regularly. Mr. Rapota has promised to arrange this, with a joint session of the Council of Ministers to be held very soon. He tells us, “We’ll try to organise a Council of Ministers session promptly, holding a Supreme State Council session in summer or in the second half of the year. Definite terms will be determined by our Heads of State.”

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