President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
We have completed two very important events: meetings of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the EurAsEC Interstate Council. Both these organisations are integration bodies and both have done their job.
During the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council meeting, we made decisions that will essentially determine the intensive course of our interstate cooperation. Beginning from January 1, 2012, a package of international treaties on the Common Economic Space will go into effect. The package includes 17 documents that are subject to ratification. And it is my pleasure to note that this rather complex process was completed by all the states. The package, which is of enormous importance to our citizens, has been passed, and will allow us to achieve our goals: namely, to ensure the free movement of goods, services, and labour.
Beginning in 2012, the Customs Union Commission, which has done a great deal of various work during its years of activity, will be replaced by the Eurasian Economic Commission. This is the first supranational body in the history of our nations – a body to which our states have essentially given a part of their sovereignty. Its scope of authority will gradually broaden. A key element here is that the decision-making mechanism within the framework of our Eurasian Economic Community and the corresponding economic committee does not allow for the dominance of any one state. I feel that this is a turning point in our movement toward one another. It reflects our common desire to build our relations based on the best international practice, and not just the best but the negative experience as well, because we must always take into account everything that is happening, everything that happened during our integration process, everything that happened and is happening, for example, in the European economic union.
Today, we made some very important decisions on organisational and personnel issues pertaining to the Eurasian Economic Commission activity. We have appointed members to the Commission and its Board, and distributed responsibilities between Board members. Viktor Khristenko has been appointed Chairman of the Board, and the Board features representatives from all three nations.
”Beginning from January 1, 2012, a package of international treaties on the Common Economic Space will go into effect. The package, which is of enormous importance to our citizens, has been passed, and will allow us to achieve our goals: namely, to ensure the free movement of goods, services, and labour.“
I would like to specifically note the top level of the Board members. They include our nations’ ministers or former heads of state. This reflects the serious attitude of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan toward forming the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission. It reflects our serious attitude concerning the far-reaching authority we are granting to this supranational body. I hope that the work of the Board will be successful and that it will take many diverse, difficult decisions that are necessary for the continuation of our integration processes. I will emphasise once again that this is possible, thanks to the high calibre of Board members.
A decision has been made on the entry into force of the Agreement on the Operation of the Customs Union within the Framework of the Multilateral Trading System. This way, the Union will operate fully even if one or more of its members join the World Trade Organisation or other international alliances.
Just now, during the restricted format meetings of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the EurAsEC Interstate Council, we talked about how, for obvious reasons, both bodies now include representatives from WTO member states or nations on their way to join the WTO. I reassured our partners in the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and the EurAsEC Interstate Council that we will provide all the assistance to our states, our brotherly partners, as regards joining the World Trade Organisation, taking into account the rather complicated experience that the Russian Federation has accumulated.
During the summit, we looked into different issues, including the adoption of various coordinated measures in crisis situations and under economic pressure. A decision was made to have a certain set of procedures for such situations. I want to stress again that these decisions reflect the highest level of interaction between the Group of Three governments, i.e., the states making up the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council.
I would like to make note of another matter that we also discussed quite extensively. Our community is open to accession by new participants; first and foremost, these would be our closest EurAsEC and CIS partners. We are ready to discuss the accession procedure with each of these states, and we are ready to create a corresponding road map for each of them, taking into account the actual economic situation in a particular nation, as well as the current global economic situation.
After our meeting of the Group Of Three, we also discussed issues pertaining to the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community. This meeting was held in a six-party format; we were joined by the heads of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Armenia (as an observer state).
”The decision-making mechanism within the framework of our Eurasian Economic Community and the corresponding economic committee does not allow for the dominance of any one state.“
I would like to say that the main issue we addressed was how to further develop the Eurasian Economic Community. And we agreed that we will try to find ways to work in the future so that the positive momentum created in the EurAsEC will be maintained. But at the same time, we will try to pull the states that are currently not in the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council up to a higher level of integration. And currently, this is precisely why we have chosen the following set of procedures for the future. We will soon be holding a EurAsEC summit – another one – in Moscow, in order to make a final decision on how we will carry out integration, how other states can participate in this project, how we can create road maps, what bodies will operate, and what instruments will be used. Clearly, we will need to make decisions on having a single mechanism to deal with all this, so that everything we created earlier is fully transferred into the working formats of the Board and the corresponding bodies of the Common Economic Space.
I think that in the near future, we will choose a date for holding a corresponding summit in Moscow.
We also looked into other issues on the agenda, signed the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of Eurasian Economic Community, and examined several issues pertaining to the operation of the EurAsEC Court. I hope that in this way, we have also promoted our cooperation in all the important areas of creating a new integrated association. I wanted to particularly state that this way, all the nations present today – both Supreme Eurasian Economic Council members and other states – have confirmed their desire to work on integration much more rapidly. Naturally, we are also pushed in this direction by our internal convictions and the events that are currently unfolding in the global economy.
Question: You have mentioned the launch of Common Economic Space on January 1, 2012, and I would like to ask how this is going to benefit Russia, apart from promoting the free movement of goods? Is it possible perhaps that we may incur losses by allowing our neighbours free access to the Russian market?
Dmitry Medvedev: Any integration, including the establishment of Common Economic Space, always presents certain opportunities and certain risks. That is always true. Anyone who says that integration always expands economic capacity is not telling the entire truth. It is clear that integration is accompanied by various processes but ultimately the states involved in integration benefit from it. That is why I said that we must take into account the experience gained in recent years, both our own experience in establishing integration organisations and international experience, including that of the European Union.
As for the benefits created by Common Economic Space, it seems to me that the situation is quite simple for the ordinary people who live in our three nations, and I would not single our Russia in this case. The common market is creating new economic opportunities and new development projects, which means new jobs, economic growth and the opportunity to create growth points and islands of stability in the highly complex and contradictory current economic conditions.
I am confident we can survive this very difficult period in the global economy, which has already been dubbed the return of the 1930s Great Depression, only if we actively engage in integration, despite the certain limitations this process engenders. Ultimately the nations that establish integration associations stand to benefit precisely because as a result the volume of the economy grows. That creates new opportunities for addressing socioeconomic issues.
”Ultimately the nations that establish integration associations stand to benefit precisely because as a result the volume of the economy grows. That creates new opportunities for addressing socioeconomic issues.“
Question: Mr President, you have just mentioned islands of stability. However, many experts and politicians talk about the possibility of a new wave of economic crisis, of a global economic crisis and the attendant risks. Is EurAsEC preparing any anti-crisis measures? What risks do you see for the stability of the association’s member states in the light of the bloody events in Kazakhstan, the recent protests that were suppressed? Will this affect the bloc’s stability?
Dmitry Medvedev: We created anti-crisis mechanisms during the 2008 crisis and in my view each of our countries used them quite successfully. We have also designed crisis management tools in the format of the Eurasian Economic Community, including an anti-crisis fund. I must admit that we established it primarily to provide assistance to partner states, and in this period some substantial loans have been allocated to a number of states. These were both sovereign loans and related loans, as well as measures to support special investment projects.
In my opinion, the anti-crisis fund has shown its effectiveness. I have no doubt that in one form or another it should be preserved in the future, because it is a way to support partner countries in a difficult economic situation. When we created it, we knew that Russia would assume a significant portion of the fund’s financing and the other states will take part in it. Therefore, these instruments should be preserved in the very difficult current period.
If a need arises for other measures, we can always meet to discuss them and perhaps create other tools of assistance and support, especially considering that in addition to global support tools, such as the International Monetary Fund, there are also regional institutions designed to address regional issues. In this sense, the EurAsEC anti-crisis fund has proven to be a very effective tool.
As for the different events that occur in our nations, any political event affects the life of a nation in one way or another. However, this should not influence our attitude to creating a common market and furthering the integration of our economies. Personally, I am far more concerned today about the overall situation in the global economy and global finance, as well as the crisis in the eurozone. It has a much greater impact on the Russian economy and, ultimately, on the attitudes of the people living in our countries.
Therefore, we hope that together we can overcome this very difficult period, which it seems cannot be avoided by any of the states that have currently united into the Eurasian Economic Council and Common Economic Space, as well as the EurAsEC member states. That is our great hope.