President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, Mr Nazarbayev,
A great deal has been done in the past years, not to mention the past few days, weeks and months, to promote the most advanced integration association on post-Soviet territory.
I would like to express special gratitude to the President of Kazakhstan, Mr Nazarbayev, who was one of the founding fathers of this association, its motivating force and actually one of its masterminds, if not the only one. This was initially his idea, I remember it well. Yesterday at Moscow State University he presented a serious report based on practical findings, where he outlined the main issues regarding development prospects and the theory behind our practical efforts. All this goes to show that Kazakhstan is taking a very serious and thorough approach to this process.
The Customs Union that we have created is functioning and bearing fruit. We see this from our countries’ economic performance. This is a clear fact. However, we can make yet another step, as we agreed, to deepen our cooperation, to promote it to a higher level.
Experts and government members have done much lately. Only recently, our Prime Ministers met to work on these issues, and they have achieved a lot. A thorough 600-page document has been drafted. Of course, the number of pages does not really matter. What does is that this document will make it possible for us to take another step in expanding our ties.
We have the opportunity to change the quality of our cooperation. This will enhance the competitiveness of our economies, make them more efficient and attract investment both internally and externally. The huge 170-million strong market that we have created can take on an absolutely new quality, acquire additional appeal and become more efficient and substantial.
True, there are issues that the experts have not fully resolved. This is the reason we have gathered here. However, I will agree with you, colleagues, that we can always make an extra effort and find solutions that would be acceptable to all; we can work and find compromise.
Let us consider this now. Let us discuss it in this small group, and then together with our experts.