The Union State’s main activities include the development and promotion of common approaches to pressing issues on the international agenda, the Russian President emphasized in his speech.
Following the meeting of the Union State Supreme State Council, the leaders of the two countries adopted a joint statement reaffirming their mutual commitment to strengthen and promote the strategic partnership between Russia and Belarus.
In addition, the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus have approved the 2018–2019 programme of joint actions in foreign policy and a number of other documents.
Following the consultations, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko made press statements.
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President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr President, colleagues,
I would like to welcome all of you once again to the capital of Belarus. The Supreme State Council meeting held almost a year ago was fairly productive and the agreements reached there stepped up bilateral cooperation in many areas.
In 2017 we overcame a decline in trade and saw an increase. Today it is very important to consolidate our positive trends and ensure further trade growth between our countries, in part by removing mutual barriers and confiscations and by creating an equitable competitive environment.
Recently, the resolving of some pressing issues is being transferred from one integration format to another, for example, to the Eurasian Economic Union. I believe we should avoid this in the future; we are capable of resolving our problems within the Union State. I believe that if problems interfere with our relations, they should be resolved here and now.
We do not need to discuss separate issues with countries that are not involved in them to reach a consensus. This is why I would like to draw your attention again to the coordinating role of the 2 that should be able to ensure consistent and regular cooperation between the relevant ministries and departments of Belarus and Russia.
I would like to ask Mr Grigory Rapota [State Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus] to study everything as thoroughly as possible and get a clear picture of the balance of interests of both sides on the issues discussed in the Standing Committee.
A week ago I instructed our Government to make sure that no talks are held without the participation of our Chief of the Executive Office, Mr Rapota. They should be aware of these things, and I believe, Mr President, it would make sense to transfer our disputable issues to the Standing Committee and discuss them there with the experts.
Our cooperation in foreign policy is systematic and multifaceted. Belarus and Russia have the same or similar positions on the main global challenges and support each other in international organisations. The two foreign ministries work together constructively to implement joint programmes.
Protecting our citizens’ interests is a special topic in our union’s construction. The necessary level of various rights and freedoms has already been attained. At least we have promoted the Union of Belarus and Russia further than any integration process.
There are several issues to resolve, such as the procedure of crossing the border between Russia and Belarus. We have agreed that we will address these problems soon. By the way, this is a good example: we understand Russia’s position on introducing elements of border control in order to provide security during the FIFA World Cup, but expect all other issues related to crossing the Russia-Belarus border to be settled.
Interregional ties underwrite our integration, with 80 Russian regions having trade and economic relations with Belarus and 300 cooperation agreements signed at the regional and municipal level. Joint forums of Belarusian and Russian regions have been held since 2014, and the next one will take place in Mogilev this October.
Mr President, I have sent an invitation to you. We have always attended these forums. The Mogilev Region is close to Russia. I think we will attend this forum together; our Eastern friends expect us there.
Colleagues, life does not stand still and demands that we constantly move forward. Approving priority tasks for the development of the Union State in the next five years is one of the key issues on today’s agenda.
All governing bodies of the Union State should take part in achieving these priorities. I am sure that we can overcome the challenges presented by the international situation only by joining our efforts. This approach is in keeping with the principles of our integration project.
Let me give the floor to President Vladimir Putin for his opening remarks.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues,
I would like to reiterate Russia's interest in further promoting the Union State and expanding political and economic integration with Belarus.
Next year, our countries will mark the 20th anniversary of the Treaty Establishing the Union State. Since then, much has been accomplished. We have improved our trade and investment and science and technology ties, as well as cultural ties, and strengthened the legal framework in all areas of cooperation.
As was just mentioned, we will use this meeting to approve the list of priority areas and tasks for promoting the Union State. This fundamental document will identify key benchmarks for joint work for the next five years.
Trade inside the Union should be further expanded and diversified. Last year, trade increased by almost a quarter (23.5 percent) to $32.5 billion (32.4). In January-April, trade was up by another 18.5 percent.
With these positive dynamics in place, $50 billion in bilateral trade is well within our reach. The amount of accumulated Russian investment in Belarus economy is over $3.9 billion. In turn, Belarusian companies have invested about $620 million in Russia.
We consider it important to consistently improve the business and investment climate, to pursue coordinated financial, monetary and fiscal, and tax policies, and to continue to harmonise regulations. We are willing to take additional steps in order to ramp up industrial cooperation. We already have promising joint projects.
I will mention in particular that Russian companies are building a plant in Belarus for producing carbon black, which is used in the automotive and chemical industries, a construction materials factory, and cereal processing plants (those are the most widely known projects). That’s about $400 million as of today.
There are good opportunities for deepening cooperation between Russia and Belarus in the energy sector. In late 2019, the first generating unit of the Belarusian nuclear power plant will be launched, and the second in 2020. Russian investment in the construction of the plant will amount to $10 billion.
Our countries are implementing joint projects to modernise Belarus' gas distribution system. Until 2020, Russia will invest about $2.5 billion in renovating the Belarusian section of the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline and over one billion in the construction of additional underground gas storage facilities.
Given the poor technical condition of other routes for exporting Russian hydrocarbons, in particular, gas to Europe, the Belarusian route has gained importance.
It appears that we should jointly promote an increase in production of high-tech products by enterprises of our respective countries. It is important to incentivise Russian and Belarusian businesses to more energetically introduce innovations into the real sector of the economy, to encourage researchers and professionals to develop new technologies. It is for this purpose that the Union State science and technology prize has been established.
Our multifaceted region-to-region cooperation is very productive, as the President just mentioned. More than 80 Russian regions maintain close trade and economic ties with Belarus. Over 320 contracts and agreements have been concluded at the regional level.
We look forward to new promising initiatives being launched following the 5th Forum of Russian and Belarusian Regions. As the President said, we traditionally attend. I hope that this year we will also take part in it.
Advancing the social and cultural sphere needs a lot of the Union State’s attention. It is important to work together and step up cultural, educational and youth exchanges between Russia and Belarus. In this context, we support the draft resolution on awarding the literature and art prize prepared by the Supreme State Council of the Union State for this meeting. The recipients include prominent cultural figures and performance groups which have made a truly significant contribution to strengthening fraternal ties between the peoples of Russia and Belarus.
Developing and promoting common approaches to important issues on the international agenda is the Union State’s key area of focus. Following this meeting, a foreign policy programme for the next two years will be approved.
We are pleased to note that our countries maintain close cooperation in international organisations and regional associations. We work together at the UN, OSCE, CIS, CSTO, EAEU and other organisations.
In closing, I want to thank the President and all our friends for making this meeting in the Belarusian capital today possible.