Vladimir Putin: Alexander Grigoryevich,
Members of the Supreme State Council,
First of all, I would like to greet all those who have gathered here for this meeting. I think we are all aware how closely the citizens in the Russian Federation and Belarus are watching the decisions of the supreme body of the Union State.
In creating the basis for a new type of relations we proceed from the interests of our peoples. And we have always based our actions on a clear understanding that the path we have chosen is not only the right path but, as we have repeatedly said, the only possible path.
The year 2001 has been politically significant for both our countries. The links between our Parliaments and Governments have grown stronger. Russian-Belarusian interaction in foreign policy has emerged as a serious factor that has to be reckoned with in the international arena. We have sought an optimal balance of our economic interests.
Mr Lukashenko and I have devoted much time to a detailed discussion of various aspects of our interaction. We agreed on some points and argued on other points. I think that is a natural process of hammering out our positions on the key issues of integration. And the key issues are unification of tariffs and the tax system, regulation of property issues of the Union State and interaction in the fields of defence, labour protection and social protection of the population.
One of our priorities is to develop a common economic policy, above all to form a common economic and customs space. It will enable us to make another important step on the historical path of building the union state and thus promote the most important goal of enhancing the well-being of the citizens of Russia and Belarus.
I am convinced that the success of Russian-Belarusian integration can only be ensured if it is systemic and consistent. It is important to keep up the momentum and not to try to skip certain vital stages. Only thoroughly considered and agreed approaches will enable us to implement our plans and solve any issues that arise in the course of integration processes.
Both Russia and Belarus believe in the considerable potential of the Union State. So, our immediate task is to live up to the high responsibility and to do everything to achieve the practical results we seek.
I think that today’s meeting of the Supreme State Council can by right be regarded as a milestone. We are not only to review the work done in 2001. We are to discuss our successes and omissions in a frank and business-like manner. We must determine our future priorities, discuss and approve some key documents of the Union State, including the plan of joint actions to form a common economic space, the conceptual principles, forecasts and assessments of social development. We are also to discuss the military doctrine.
During our personal meeting with Alexander Lukashenko today we discussed in great detail the sequence of the steps to be taken to strengthen the Union State, and we talked about the agenda of today’s meeting. I think that the issues on the agenda have been sufficiently well studied. Especially since yesterday the government and experts have done a good deal of work. Mr Lukashenko, as far as I know, worked late into the night yesterday with the Russian and Belarusian experts. All this indicates that today we can make a substantial step forward in our interaction.