First, I’d like to mention some statistics, taken from our publication, entitled Attitudes Change with Time. Over the past decade, Belarusians’ nostalgia for the Soviet past has begun to fade, while aspirations to living in an independent state have grown.
In 2007, 10 percent of Belarusians expressed the desire to live in a renewed Soviet Union, while 21 percent wanted to live in an independent state not linked to any other country. According to recent polls, conducted by the National Academy of Sciences’ Sociology Institute, an absolute majority (of 74.9 percent) believe that our country has become an independent state since gaining independence.
Famous sociologist Christian Haerpfer, from Scotland’s University of Aberdeen, on visiting Minsk recently, said, “Twenty years ago, Belarusians spoke of feeling uncertainty regarding their future. In the 1990s, they had no idea what would happen to their families or to the country. People were nostalgic for the Soviet Union’s economic system, pensions and stability. Twenty years on, you’re feeling more stable and have increased confidence in the future. People have more confidence in the future, for their families and children, and feel safer. There’s far less harking back to the past.”
Today, integration is essential, with the Union of Russia and Belarus demonstrating its usefulness. Minsk recently hosted the first session of the Union State Supreme State Council since December 2010, and I’d like to draw attention some aspects. The agenda tackled budget fulfilment from the previous year and approved a major financial document for the new period. Foreign policy was also agreed.
Analysis of priority tasks for the Union State is a new point on the joint agenda, with a corresponding programme adopted for 2014-2017. External events are playing their part and Mr. Lukashenko has been obliged to be frank: integration is being tested against a background of global economic instability. Vladimir Putin has agreed that this is a serious risk factor.
Meanwhile, the approval of the common budget shows that Minsk and Moscow view the Union State as vital, allocating 6bln Russian Roubles for the financing of around 40 joint programmes. Read more about the Union State in Confident View on Future of Relations.
Belarus is focusing on multi-vector integration, including recently activated European integration. Minsk has been visited by a range of EU representatives, exchanging ideas and dialogue, and there is hope for more tangible agreements, both pragmatic and constructive.