President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Dmitry Anatolyevich!
It has been over a year since the last meeting of the State Supreme Council (SSC). In that time, major changes have occurred in world politics and economics. We have seen the fully manifested shortcomings of monopolisation within the modern architecture of the world order. The global financial and economic crisis has gained momentum, in part because of actions by individual governments that were not fully thought through. This process could not help but affect the socio-economic system of Belarus and Russia.
During a meeting on December 22, 2008, as well as at intergovernmental consultations, we took into account these factors and agreed that at the meeting of the SSC, we should examine issues that are truly relevant to our countries, ones that respond to modern realities and the strategic nature of our relations. These agreements were based on the necessity to unite our efforts in these new circumstances, not only in order not to lose all that we have achieved in all areas, but also in order to gain new momentum for Belarus-Russian partnership.
We assumed that first and foremost, we must actively work on the trade and economic cooperation. In 2008, our turnover was close to a record figure of 35 billion dollars. Within Russia’s list of key trade and economic partners, Belarus steadily holds sixth place. This is over 55 percent of Russia’s foreign trade with EurAsEC countries, and today it is extremely important to maintain the current high level of integration cooperation that exists between our countries, and mutually beneficial cooperation in trade, scientific and technical, and regional partnership.
Our plans include rapidly concluding work to provide practically equal conditions for the economic entities of our countries. All the more so because the past year was marked by important events – work has been completed to put into effect an agreement on providing equal rights to citizens of our two countries regarding freedom of movement and the choice of where to reside. This way, another step has been taken in building a full-fledged Union State.
Dear members of the Supreme State Council!
We have encountered quite a few problems that require common discussion and developing optimal strategies for their resolution. I have mandated that a project be prepared for the agenda, which fully reflects all current elements of the union’s construction, including those that were given particular attention by our Russian colleagues, and, most importantly, the issues that have already undergone two consultations with the President of the Russian Federation (and our prime ministers also talked about this): the creation of a united regional system of air defence for the Union State, which must be regarded in the same package as a range of measures to deepen military-technical cooperation (Dmitry Anatolyevich and I were just discussing this issue); the activation of economic cooperation, including the issue of giving the Russian rouble the status of a regional currency. Otherwise, today’s meeting would have been just a formality.
The decisions brought forward today to be approved by the heads of state are the result of painstaking and well-coordinated work on both sides, an evidence of our readiness to find compromises on even the most difficult issues in accordance with the particular unified status of Belarus and Russia. After all, true friends will never act in a way that is detrimental to each other’s interests. And I am sure that today’s meeting will allow us to find effective solutions to settle many problems.
I hope that the tone set for our work will be supported by all the ministers and cabinets of our countries with the understanding that at our next meeting, we will discuss the outlooks for strategic cooperation between Belarus and Russia under the new conditions in detail.
I would once again like to emphasize that we finished the talks on today’s agenda very rapidly, as is common for myself and Dmitry Anatolyevich, the President of Russia, and overall, we did not find disagreements on any issues. Moreover, we think alike on all issues, and we will present our views today at the Supreme State Council. And we are determined to quickly implement the issues that are currently being worked out. I agree with the President of Russia, we will give the experts and ministers mandates that will serve to fully carry out suggestions on very relevant issues of economics and social life for our countries within two or three weeks.
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear Alexander Grigorievich!
Colleagues! Members of the Supreme State Council! Dear friends!
First, I would like to state my full agreement with what the President of Belarus has just said regarding the fact that the agenda of today’s meeting, the results that we arrived at, and the decisions that we have made, are all the result of painstaking and well-coordinated work. And ultimately, the important issues that we are looking at today are the result of the meeting we had at the end of last year, as well as the mandates that were given by us, and which are now fairly serious decisions.
It is true that today, we must not only take stock of the previous year, but also determine further priorities in the development of the Union State, keeping in mind, among other things, the changes that are currently taking place in the world. The situation is not simple, and we are obligated to take into account this situation, both in our intergovernmental relations and our relations as a union. I am, of course, referring to the financial and economic crisis which demands our close cooperation and coordinated actions, aimed to minimize losses for our economies, and therefore, minimize losses for our people. The head officers of governmental departments will report specific suggestions and reflections on this issue. But I would like to particularly draw your attention to the anti-crisis plan drew up by the Council of Ministers of the Union State, which we will look at today. I feel that this document is both important and well-timed. And I think that we can and should ensure its proper fulfilment.
A significant event that Alexander Grigorievich has already talked about is the reinforcement of the politico-military component of our cooperation – namely, signing an agreement on creating a unified regional air defence system. We have been heading toward this for a fairly long time, and the work is now complete. I would like to thank all our colleagues who took part in preparing this document. The implementation of this document will significantly increase the defensive capacity Russia and Belarus.
Lately, much has been done to reach an optimal balance in the economic sphere; active work has been continued to strengthen our economic foundation and the economic framework of the Union State. One of our priorities still is the swiftest formation of a unified economic and customs area. We are ready to activate this work both in a bilateral format, and as part of the “trio” [Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan] of the EurAsEC.
We will also need to approve the budget of the Union State for this year. I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the budget allows for an increase in budgetary assignments. I count on this to let us implement Union programmes more effectively and confidently.
It is imperative to analyse in detail the implementation of social development in the Union State, first and foremost within the framework of providing equal social standards to citizens of Russia and Belarus. You know that in recent years, a whole range of agreements has come into effect, confirming uniform guarantees of social protection and health care for Russians and Belarusians – Alexander Grigorievich was just talking about it; we welcome this as a very important event, along with unified taxation conditions for citizens. Today, we will take another important step in this direction: we will ratify on the commencement of an agreement on freedom of movement and travel.
One of the most important directions of our cooperation is the reinforcement of cooperation in foreign policy between Russia and Belarus. Cooperation in this area is based on a programme of coordinated actions in the sphere of foreign policy. Just now, during our one-on-one talks, we discussed these issues, the current situation in Europe and around the world, taking into account the economic crisis and existing realities in foreign policy. Of course, the draft programme for the new period will also direct the main trends of joint activity on the international arena.
In conclusion, I would like to specifically emphasize that we must work actively, we must look both ways to see what is happening, we must adapt our experience to modern, complicated conditions; only this kind of approach will give new momentum to the integration processes.
Tomorrow, here in Moscow, there will be a meeting of the Intergovernmental Council of EurAsEC, as well as a session of the CSTO Council, where we will discuss these questions in a multilateral setting. I believe that Russian-Belarus relations at a higher level can and should serve as a good example of a mutually beneficial partnership in all directions. That is the reason why we are all here today.
Let’s begin working.