Where aspirations lie

What purpose do thematic meetings, conferences and forums serve?
What purpose do thematic meetings, conferences and forums serve? Of course, it’s useful to share expertise and exchange opinion. Speaking face to face is always most effective, as was clear at the plenary session of the 3rd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia. 

It’s obvious that any event featuring heads of state gains enhanced importance, so the presence of Alexander Lukashenko and Vladimir Putin was noted. In their speeches, the presidents referred to the ‘larger picture’, adding another layer of significance to the discussion. Meanwhile, reports from Belarusian and Russian partners on their experience of cooperation painted a convincing picture of the benefits. The audience listened rapt, with new proposals finding immediate response and support. 

Nothing can replace dialogue in facilitating new partnerships, as we explore in this issue, looking at the work of the 3rd Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia, and the importance of integration in strengthening Belarus’ open economy, ­seeking out sales markets. The preservation of Russia as a global geopolitical player depends much on our successful relations, together building economic relations with third countries, to all-round benefit from multilateral collaboration.

Experts note that our two countries have much motivation for cooperation, as is manifested in our terminology. Forums often discuss import substitution, investments, new techno­logy, social orientation and unification of legislation. The upper chambers of our parliaments have agreed to continue working on unified legislation in the sphere of labour relations, education and healthcare. Meanwhile, much still needs to be done to eliminate barriers to mutual trade.

Astana’s recent hosting of a Supreme Eurasian Economic Council summit, featuring Alexander Lukashenko, discussed ways forward in integration, with heads of state debating how best to strengthen economic interrelation between the EAEU, and third countries and key integration structures. Belarus is especially interested in forming single markets for gas, oil and oil products within the EAEU. Moreover, the session saw major guidelines proposed for the EAEU macroeconomic policy for 2016-2017, alongside guidelines for the EAEU international activity.

In extended format meetings, the EAEU summit in Astana included around 15 agenda items, with corresponding decisions adopted. During the first year of the EAEU work, impressions have been mixed. On the one hand, integration has enabled us to considerably reduce risks, minimising the negative consequences of global shocks on world markets. Yet, obstacles remain to mutual trade, as Mr. Lukashenko underlines.

Integration without a shared economic space makes no sense, since we cannot unite without a unified market for hydrocarbons, electricity, medicines and liberalisation of transport services. The EAEU Treaty covers these matters but little progress has been made in ensuring application. 

No one expects a ra­dical breakthrough from the Astana negotiations, but some advancement is hoped for. The presidents of Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia have approved a concept to form single markets for oil and oil products by 2025, while the EAEU energy companies will be granted equal, non-discriminatory access to oil infrastructure. Additionally, they will be able to purchase oil and oil products without price restriction and without export duties. Next year, the presidents plan to approve a step-by-step programme to implement this concept, signing a corresponding agreement.

The major message of the summit has been to advance in a more challenging and decisive manner. Moreover, liaising with the EAEU is becoming ever more attractive to other states.

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