Vladimir Putin: We are going to brief you on the results of our joint work, and first I give the floor to the President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma.
Leonid Kuchma: On behalf of the Presidents of the Republics of Belarus, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine I would like to read our the statement we agreed upon yesterday and signed today.
We, the heads of state of the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Ukraine,
seeking to contribute to the economic and social progress of our peoples, raise their living standards proceeding from the principles of sustained development,
mindful of the fact that consistent implementation of economic reforms in our countries has created prerequisites for the further deepening of multilateral economic cooperation and strengthening of integration processes,
elaborating the provisions of the agreement on the free trade zone of April 15, 1994, reaffirming the agreements worked out by the CIS Summits in Chisinau and Kiev and our determination to create a common economic space,
proclaim the new stage of the economic integration and are initiating talks on the measures required to form a common economic space.
The result of the talks will be the preparation, by September 2003, of an agreement on the common economic space, an agreed economic policy in a number of areas, harmonisation of the relevant laws and the creation of a single independent interstate Commission on Trade and Tariffs.
The ultimate goal of the work is to create an organisation of regional integration.
To this end the parties create a joint high-level group and approve its mandate.
Vladimir Putin: I can add that the working group will be located and will work in the city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The group will be headed by a representative of Kazakhstan. Of course we are open to work with other CIS countries and this statement is open for accession to other interested countries.
Alexander Lukashenko: The substance of our work is that after talks yesterday and today we have decided to again address a very serious problem: the creation of a free trade zone, of a common economic space.
Secondly, we are taking practical steps to protect our markets and our states. We are aware that we cannot afford losing the traditional markets for our products and we must fulfill these decisions before this year is out. And beginning from next year there must be the free movement of our goods. That is the essence of the move taken in this wonderful city on this wonderful day.
Leonid Kuchma: I would hate you to get the impression that we are creating another “four” within the CIS. This was not our goal at all. Our main desire is to create a common economic space. We wanted to be a single organisation instead of the many that exist today. A single organisation with all the main goals.
Secondly, we have confirmed with our signatures that the prime goal is to pass a decision on the creation in September of a free trade zone, because we cannot run before we can walk. We cannot skip the phase of a free trade zone on the way to a common economic space. And if we have the political will and if we confirm that we do not just make declarations, that we have clear goals, that we are aware of what is happening in the world, then we will gain the trust of people in the CIS and in the world.
Vladimir Putin: And the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev will now wrap up the results of our work.
Nursultan Nazarbayev: I wouldn’t like the journalists present to get the impression that the Presidents have been improvising. We have just reviewed what we have achieved in the CIS, EurAsEC and GUAM and in Central Asian cooperation and when we looked at all this objectively and honestly we realised that unless we create a commission independent of the Governments of Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus which will be empowered by parliament and which will independently regulate tariffs and trade, including foreign trade, we will have no success. That is why we have made this decision.
Secondly, I would not like you to get the impression that it is an alternative to the CIS and all the other associations. No. Once our commission, as we have agreed today, consisting of vice-premiers and involving all the ministries has prepared this agreement by September and once we have published it, everyone will understand whether it is useful and profitable to join it or not. I would like to hope that it is going to be a breakthrough in our relations if we want genuine trade. It is all about tariffs and trade. And for the first time in the history of our association we are starting not with policy imposed from above before building up the structure; we are starting by building the foundation. God willing, this time around it will work out beautifully.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you and I congratulate you on the holiday.