President Vladimir Putin: Dear Aleksandr Grigor’evich [Lukashenko], dear members of the Supreme State Council, colleagues.
There is quite a wide range of issues on the agenda today relating to the development of the Union State and the continuation of our joint integration work. The distinguishing feature of this stage of bilateral relations is dynamic development of economic cooperation. As was just mentioned, our trade turnover has reached a record level – almost $18 billion, and growth rates continue to be very high. We need to strengthen this tendency. It remains to discuss issues of bringing the economic systems of our two countries closer together. This primarily concerns harmonising our trade and tax legislation, and removing restrictions on mutual trade. The budget of the Union State for 2005, which we will examine today, was formed taking these priorities into account. We must confirm the new personnel of the joint work group for preparing the Constitutional document. The main task of experts in working on this document is to take into account every nuance in the draft Constitution.
One of the most important issues is to ensure equal rights of our citizens. Here I absolutely agree with Aleksandr Grigor’evich; we talked about this at the last meeting in Sochi. He was the one who raised these issues. I agree with him. In both Russia and Belarus, citizens must feel equally confident and socially comfortable. They must not only enjoy all democratic freedoms, but also have every opportunity to receive pensions and medical service. We must make maximum progress in reaching these goals.
It remains for us to confirm the programme of coordinated actions in the foreign policy sphere, and also to take a number of decisions in ensuring security of the Union State and developing military and technical cooperation. We have returned to this several times, we have specific plans both with the Defence Ministry and with the producers of appropriate technology. All this has been in the sphere of our attention and remains there.
Very soon, we will celebrate an important event together – the 60th anniversary of Victory. For our peoples, who went through the terrible ordeal of war and together defended their right to life and freedom, this is a truly sacred date. And today we will discuss how preparations are going for these celebrations.
I would like to thank you for your attention. Aleksandr Grigor’evich, I think that we can now start to move through the agenda.