The formula of co-operation may change
Against the backdrop of global integration processes, Ukraine, Belarus’ neighbour, occupies a special place. On the one hand, it is moving closer to the European Union, whilst on the other, Kiev states that it is not in their interest to lose their close ties with former Soviet republics. If this is the case, then the subject of interaction with the countries of the Single Economic Space, and in the future with the Eurasian Economic Union, remains on the table, and it is necessary to define a reasonable level of co-operation, which would suit all parties. This was the main topic of the discussion between the President of Belarus and the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Nikolai Azarov.
By Vasily Kharitonov
Alexander Lukashenko does not see any problems in signing an agreement between Ukraine and the EU, and believes that a certain formula of co-operation between Ukraine and the Customs Union will be found. He said this at the meeting with Mr. Azarov.
Alexander Lukashenko believes that the problem is too politicised. “We have driven ourselves in unknown destinations. We should rely upon reality. The fact that Ukraine is going to sign an association agreement with the European Union is almost a fait accompli, according to statements from Brussels and Kiev. Therefore, we also have to approach it in this way, that Ukraine is a sovereign and independent state that has chosen this path and decided to enter this agreement,” said the President.
“Frankly speaking, I do not see any problems in the step towards co-operation with the EU. It is important that the agreement itself will not stop the co-operation of Ukraine with EurAsEC and the Customs Union,” believes the Head of the Belarusian state.
“If the Customs Union will meet Ukrainian proposals, we will meet them, if they are defective and skewed towards the European Union, neither Russia, Kazakhstan or Belarus will, of course, accept them. But if these countries will accept, then we will, but only on the basis of some compromises,” said Mr. Lukashenko. “Whether we like it or not, we have to live in a certain reality, and to build our common policy on this basis. Whatever Ukraine chooses to do, even if they join NATO, we will still have to look for relations with them, we are obliged to do it for many reasons.”
The President of Belarus made it clear that the group of three would like to see Ukraine as an integral part of the associations. “We would like that Ukraine were a part of the EurAsEC and the future Eurasian Union on an equal basis, in order to for us to have unified rules which would be recognised by all member states. I think we will find a formula for us to be together, and not to split,” said the Head of the Belarusian state. “We do not think about Ukraine as a foreign country. We would like that it was, not just physically next to us, but together with us in all regional integrations. However, it is Ukraine’s right to choose in which direction to go, and we must accept the rights of Ukraine and understand that this is a sovereign, independent country,” said the President.
“Therefore, in the near future we have to go a very long way to find normal co-operation with Ukraine. We understand it. ‘We’ being the members of the Customs Union.”
Speaking about bilateral Belarusian-Ukrainian relations, the President expressed his confidence that the parties will find a solution to all problems.
“We are representatives of two fraternal Slavic people and are bound by centuries-old friendships. We do not choose neighbours, and our task is to learn to live as neighbours and together. I think this is the basis of our co-operation,” said the Head of State. “Some say it’s more emotional, than pragmatic. But people have gone too deep into pragmatism lately in this world and there are a lot of wars and conflicts everywhere. We should not forget that we are humans, we should not only think about money and goods.”
Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Nikolai Azarov said that his country was interested in co-operation with the EU and the Customs Union. “We have to go through a rather complicated way. We have made big commitments and we will meet them for ourselves, not for someone else,” said the Prime Minister. “Therefore, we believe that it is very important for us to have a free trade zone with the EU, and it is equally important to have normal relationships, a free trade area, with the Customs Union, to participate in the integration process and in the EurAsEC.”
Ukrainian trade with the member states of the Customs Union stands at around $65 billion.
“We do not oppose one another. On the contrary, we want to find a harmonious blend of the opportunities that are available for economic development in the West and in the East,” the Prime Minister said. “As for co-operation with Belarus, Ukraine will do everything to ensure that relations between neighbours are good.”