Pragmatically expanding integration space

Viktor Khristenko, Russia’s Industry and Trade Minister, comes to Minsk to meet Alexander Lukashenko

Viktor Khristenko was also the special representative of the President of Russia at talks relating to the Single Economic Space (SES), meeting the President at his residence at 38 Karl Marx Street. Mr. Lukashenko noted that Vladimir Putin’s article in Izvestia newspaper on Eurasian integration ‘meets our — Belarusian — position’. However, he plans to specify Minsk’s interests in his own publication on the topic…

“The future candidate for the presidency and, most probably, the future president of Russia, suggests bringing our former common space in order as the first thesis of his programme; it seems to stand high on his agenda,” Mr. Lukashenko told his Moscow guest. “I’d like to discuss how we should behave regarding problem areas within the framework of the Single Economic Space — as is reasonable and justifiable on our part.”

The recent statement leads us to suppose that, on establishing the SES, our three states will be more active than was evident in establishing the Customs Union. The corresponding package of documents for this new integration should come into force from early 2012.

According to Mr. Khristenko, Minsk and Moscow have achieved mutual understanding — in particular, regarding the Eurasian Economic Commission – a newly established body to manage the SES. “Probably, it will be named thus. This is the first time that I’ve publicly announced its name,” stressed Mr. Khristenko. This was his last revelation for journalists. He preferred to refrain from speaking more on ‘certain aspects which need to be legally registered’. However, these were most likely discussed during his talks with the President.

During the process of integration, a certain moment comes when participants need not only to show goodwill but to give up some part of their sovereignty. A supranational body needs to set common tariffs for goods imported into the single customs territory, among other measures. The EU states have already faced this task, having delegated the lion’s share of their authority to Brussels. Our three states face a similar choice and the major dilemma is how to combine evident benefits (from free movement of goods, services, capital and labour) and the supreme obligation of each state to defend its citizens’ interests.

Mr. Khristenko used figures to prove the profits resulting from the Customs Union. Despite the crisis, turnover between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia will have risen 40 percent this year, outstripping $100bn.

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