President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Mr President, dear friends.
The meeting today of the Supreme State Council is special. It marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty Establishing the Union State, a document that has become a landmark in the modern history of Belarusian-Russian relations and the foundation of our strategic partnership. Our joint efforts to implement the Treaty over the last decade and the dynamic activity of the Union State have helped to boost cooperation in the economic field and to maintain a high level of industrial, scientific and technical cooperation. Trade and economic ties and regional cooperation have proceeded apace, effectively implemented by the Union’s programme. We are cooperating closely in strengthening defence and security and coordinating our activities in the international arena. We have resolved almost all the issues involved in ensuring equal rights for Belarusians in Russia and Russians in Belarus, rights affecting economic activities, education, health care, purchasing real estate, employment, wages, freedom of movement and choice of place of residence. I think you’ll agree that the citizens of Russia and Belarus do not enjoy such an agreement with every country.
We have worked systematically and consistently to implement the provisions of the Union Treaty and promote the formation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.
To be more specific, the fact that we are moving in the right direction within the Union State has encouraged our partners and had a knock-on effect in other integrated structures. The EurAsEC [Eurasian Economic Community] decisions adopted on November 27 in Minsk regarding the creation of a common economic space for Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia of course require us to rethink approaches to different Union State bodies and agencies, and the relations between ministers, prime ministers and presidents, and incidentally this is what we’ve been doing the whole time that you were waiting for us.
In this context, I think our governments, or even the government of our Union should formulate for our next meeting of the Supreme State Council specific priorities concerning the activities of Union’s agencies in the economic sphere, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication.
I think that we need to carefully study and prepare proposals to adapt the Union bodies’ format and functions to work within the Customs Union and within the common economic space in the long term.
Dear friends, over the last while we have had lengthy discussions about all the matters on our agenda. On certain issues where we see things differently – these are not so much disagreements as variant readings – we have tried to reconcile our positions. So the delay is connected with this, and I'll be reporting on it when we discuss the agenda. And now, Mr President, if you’re willing, I would like you – as we usually do …
Dmitry Medvedev: Of course I am.
Alexander Lukashenko: … to say what’s on your mind before we get to the actual agenda.
Dmitry Medvedev: By all means.
Mr President, members of the Supreme State Council, dear Belarusian friends,
First I should take this opportunity to congratulate everyone here on the date just mentioned, the anniversary we’re celebrating, the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty Establishing the Union State. These 10 years have gone by very quickly, much has been done, and there’s a lot still to do. Nevertheless, this event gives our meeting a special atmosphere and underlines the need to continue our constructive, pragmatic work on all aspects of Russian-Belarusian cooperation. Incidentally, it is precisely this approach that is laid out in the declaration celebrating this anniversary that Mr President and I intend to sign after the meeting of the SSC.
Our relationship is not standing still: we have worked to coordinate economic and customs policy, and made very significant progress. Sometimes in our discussions – which can be contentious – we tend to forget just how far we’ve come. Of course the extent of our mutual integration bears no comparison to what it was 10 years ago. And of course our economies have changed, everyday conditions have changed, but the extent of our integration is now substantively different. This allows us to move forward bilaterally and to work out some very fundamental agreements, such as the agreement establishing a common customs space.
We have discussed this in detail, and now we really have had a very productive and, as usually happens in exchanges between Russia and Belarus, a very engaged, emotional exchange of views on the entire agenda. I think this is good precisely because during such exchanges there was mutual interest and mutual respect, and eventually we arrived at compromise solutions for the entire agenda of our relations.
Of course we need to consider all the issues. We should give priority to trade and economic cooperation. This is the foundation for our concerted efforts in the future. We really are preparing to launch a Customs Union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. In essence, this means preparing to launch the mechanism of a common economic space. So all these issues will be at the centre of discussion at today's meeting.
An important part of the economic agenda is traditionally given over to fuel and energy cooperation. We were just discussing these issues, but on the eve of the SSC meeting, we have intensified our efforts to consider the most pressing issues. Today we discussed a number of possible joint activities, including a fundamental agreement on how to respond positively to the different ideas about our further cooperation in the oil sector. Our colleagues the deputy prime ministers will report to us about the joint activities that we are preparing to undertake. I think that today the most important decisions involve promoting energy cooperation, or at least not creating difficulties for our Belarusian partners while at the same modernising our cooperation in this area.
The signing of an agreement on developing military and technical cooperation will be of great importance for strengthening the defence capabilities of Russia and Belarus. Incidentally, I expect that the intra-governmental procedures related to this document, as well as other documents on military and technical cooperation, will be dealt with fairly swiftly, in a very short time. I have just submitted a number of documents to the State Duma. I hope that our Belarusian partners will take similar steps in handling the agreements that are subject to public ratification.
We have to approve the Union budget and analyze possible ways of implementing the concept of social development. We are considering a programme of concerted action in the foreign policy area for the period 2010–11. I hope that in this area, as perhaps nowhere else, we will have a special degree of policy coordination, because a great many issues depend on the positions our countries take in the international arena, including the nature of our own relations.
I hope that, despite the considerable pause, despite protracted discussions in restricted format, we can now go to work rapidly, as Mr President suggested, and at the same time constructively, on the entire agenda.