Pavel Borodin, the State Secretary of the Union State, tells us his thoughts
on the future of the Union State .
2008 was a record year for trade between Belarus and Russia, with 35 billion US Dollars generated. Forty programs, subprograms and events were financed from the Union State budget and several documents came into force expanding the social rights of Belarusian and Russian citizens within the Union. As regards how the financial and economic crisis will influence the development of Belarusian and Russian integration this year, the Highest State Council and the Council of Ministers of the Union State have been discussing the issue in Moscow. Time is proving the correctness of our joint decisions.
Overcoming the financial and economic crisis. The main thing now is to develop our own economy, investing oil revenue in building roads and industrial spheres such as machine building. The Union State is focusing on these goals. 28 thousand enterprises — employing five million workers — are working within the framework of Belarusian-Russian relations. We have a single economy. Granting loans to Belarus, Russia supports its enterprises and preserves jobs. The ministers of economy and finances of Belarus and Russia have stressed mutually beneficial support at the Highest State Council, talking about business co-operation.
Programs will be financed. Trade between our two states generated 35 billion US Dollars last year. Machine building and agricultural products made up 63 percent. In spite of the crisis and economic difficulties, joint programs continue to be financed. Economic, social and cultural obligations undertaken by the Union State will be met completely.
The Union State financed 28 working programs, allocating 68 billion US Dollars for diesel engineering. In 2000, the Motor Works in Yaroslav had ceased operations; now, as a result of Union programs, it employs 26,000 people. A diesel engineering program is being actively promoted and a program on agricultural machine building is running. Meanwhile, cancer treatments are to the fore.
Equal rights. A regulatory framework is essential; the Union State needs unified legislation to help us become Union State citizens. The most important document of last year was an agreement on equal opportunities. It protects us from unfair employers; regardless of which of our countries you work in, you won’t be a ‘guest worker’. Union State citizens will have equal access to medical, social and legal aid in either state.
Union management structure. It’s not a question of Belarus’ inclusion within Russia but of corporate structure and delegation of authority. Perhaps, Union ministries are unnecessary — but we must have a Union Parliament. The State Commission — under the chairmanship of Boris Gryzlov, the Speaker of the State Duma of Russia — will decide. The Commission will prepare the relevant acts.
Joint operating plan. Vasily Khrol and Sergey Shukhno, deputies of the State Secretary of the Union State, support Mr. Borodin’s opinion. The joint operating plan of our Russian and Belarusian governments on minimising the consequences of the world crisis aims to improve the balance of payments and conditions for entrepreneurial activities. This is a fundamental document for Russia and Belarus. It focuses on expanding the use of the Russian Ruble for trade payments, co-operation in the banking sector and use of leasing transactions. It gives Belarusian enterprises access to the bailout plan accepted in Russia — in particular, for those Belarusian enterprises having close relations with Russian partners.
Which Belarusian enterprises will be supported by Russia? Vasily Khrol explains that, in compliance with the plan to battle the consequences of the world recession, specific Belarusian enterprises are named by the program. Russian and Belarusian automobile, TV and tractor works are among those listed. One step forward is the simplification of the physical flow of inventory and vehicles through Union State territory, ensuring easy customs clearance through the border and onwards to exterior borders. According to this plan, it will become unnecessary to issue certificates for the import of passenger cars owned by Belarusian citizens.
Sergey Shukhno underlines the importance of decisions accepted at meetings of the Council of Ministers and the Highest State Council of the Union State — aiming for co-operation in foreign policy and social spheres. Concerted foreign policy of member states is accepted as vital; a conceptual document is being prepared to govern joint efforts by Belarus and Russia regarding the protection and promotion of shared interests within the international arena.
Meanwhile, the ‘Slavyansky Bazar in Vitebsk’ International Festival is to include a ‘Day of the Union State’.