Question: Who will head the new structure [EurAsEC] and what additional functions will the Customs Union, now transformed into the Eurasian Economic Community, acquire?
Vladimir Putin (adding to Nursultan Nazarbayev’s answer): We are not talking about granting any exclusive privileges either to this union or the new international economic organisation. We are talking about a brand new instrument for making decisions. We hope that the improved quality of those decisions will make them more viable. Since experts will have the chance to consider them more thoroughly, they are more likely to be implemented. This was the idea behind the creation of the Community as suggested by the Kazakh President, and the objective pursued by the experts in preparing the documents. That is what we have ended up with in executing the finalised treaty.
Question: Mr Putin, you have more than once said that the integration should start with and be based on the economy. Do you think that this economic component will work in the given situation, and will the political and social components follow?
Vladimir Putin: Those are our ultimate goals, since the economy by itself is meaningless if it brings no positive changes to people’s lives. As you may have noticed, the statement on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Community contains a section covering exactly the problems you have just mentioned. These include harmonising the policies and legislation of all member countries in science and education, and creating equal opportunities in education, health care and some other social areas. It goes without saying that these are the ultimate results we are striving for, and we expect our efforts to promote integration and to bring positive social changes that will have an effect on people’s lives.
Continuing on the subject of how the integration in the economic sphere might influence the social area, I would say that the influence will be direct. Just to illustrate, we often – both in Russia and when visiting the former Soviet republics – discuss problems related to the Russian language.
We have agreed with Kazakhstan to join efforts in the energy sector. Generating capacities will be located both in Russia and in Kazakhstan. For many years the coal once mined in the Soviet Union to satisfy the needs of the Ural and Siberian industrial complex, was not used as intended. We have agreed to make more use of it. In a similar way the [Russian] language will be in demand once it becomes necessary for economic life. This gives us an optimistic outlook and reasons to believe that the social upshot of our efforts will be positive.
Question: As we know, not all fundamental issues have been resolved at the meeting of the heads of government. Could you please name which issues have remained unresolved and what fundamental decisions were made today?
Vladimir Putin (adding to Nursultan Nazarbayev’s answer): That is a very important question indeed. President Nazarbayev was right in saying that all decisions should be made by the integration committee with the following distribution of votes: 40% for Russia, 20% each for Kazakhstan and Belarus, and 10% each for Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This principle is acceptable to Russia since it takes into account our country’s potential, but at the same time does not give Russia the power to dictate the terms, because no decision can be made unilaterally. There is one more mechanism: if three other states have an opinion different from Russia’s, Russia will not be able to push the decision through despite its 40%. You need the support of the other members. But even that is not all. There is one more mechanism that serves as an additional instrument for reconciling positions. I am talking about the Council of Heads of State, which makes decisions by reaching a consensus.