Belarus is the propeller of integration in the post-Soviet space, just like Germany and France in the European Union. Belarus takes an active part in all associations and unions that have emerged in the former Soviet Union, from the Commonwealth of Independent States to the Union State of Belarus and Russia. The year 2006 is not an exception: Belarus will play host to meetings of the heads of member states of the Eurasian Economic Community, or the EurAsEC, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, or the CSTO and the CIS. The very fact that Belarus hosts these summit meetings speaks for its significant contribution to the integration progress.
The Eurasian Economic Community has held the first meeting of the Interstate Council at the level of premiers in Minsk. Alexander Lukashenko received the heads of national governments of the six countries (Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) in his residence.
The EurAsEC was established in 2000 on the basis of the Customs Union, originally established between Belarus and Russia. Last year Belarus took over the EurAsEC chairmanship from Kazakhstan, which supervised the organization for four years.
In his welcoming speech the president noted that all the six countries of the EurAsEC had registered a fast economic expansion over the previous years. “This is for the most part due to the trade without duties, restrictions and provisos between our countries. Our economic systems are complementary, which is a good reason for further integration,” Alexander Lukashenko said. The EurAsEC is a powerful and influential organization, and the recent accession of Uzbekistan has become good proof. At the same time, the president believes the six countries are very close to the next integration phase that will allow switching to specific projects from general interstate agreements.
To have a viable integration it is necessary to involve more and more segments in the integration process, especially business, science, etc. At the previous summit that was held in St. Petersburg Alexander Lukashenko came up with several initiatives that were aimed to make the community more efficient. The president proposed to develop and implement interstate programs in transit, microelectronics and biotechnologies. Russia’s Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov confirmed that Belarus’ eastern neighbor was extremely interested in high-tech projects.
Anyway, the key integration objective is to complete the regulatory framework of the Customs Union by 2006. Unfortunately not all the plans were implemented. “We have to make decisive steps in developing the Customs Union in conditions of national campaigns to accede to the World Trade Organizations (WTO),” Alexander Lukashenko told the meeting. The general secretary of the EurAsEC, Grigory Rapota, reported that “we have already dealt with all technical issues to prepare the legal framework of the Customs Union”. According to him, the key task now is to synchronize two processes — the creation of the Customs Union and accession to the WTO. Grigory Rapota admitted that the issue took more time than any other problem, but the result was worth it: the six countries confirmed their intention to establish the Customs Union this year and unify at least 80% of all tariffs used in trade with third countries from the current 62%.
Alexander Lukashenko outlined other priorities of the community, especially free transit of electric power and oil products within the borders of the EurAsEC. Besides, the unification of rail tariffs will give an impetus to the development of regional integration, Alexander Lukashenko believes.
The meeting in Minsk proved very efficient, as several essential documents were signed to facilitate further trade growth. Besides the rail tariffs deal the premiers approved the agreement on the single origin label of the EurAsEC, a sort of quality mark for the goods produced in the community. The new label will confirm quality of commodities at the national level and help boost mutual trade, as no additional certificates will be required.
by Igor Kolosow