President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Mr Lukashenko, members of the press.
Today has been a long and very busy day, and it reflects in full the whole spectrum of relations between Russia and Belarus. It reflects the great opportunities we have before us, as well as the still unresolved problems on which Mr Lukashenko and I have been working tirelessly over these last eight hours.
This was the Supreme State Council’s final meeting this year. As you know, it coincides with the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty Establishing the Union State. The joint declaration that we signed just before reflects the results we have achieved over this time.
I already shared with Belarusian journalists some personal recollections on this treaty’s preparation. I had only just arrived in Moscow to work at that time, and the treaty was being drafted just at that moment. I was asked to look through the text and give it my approval (I worked in the Presidential Executive Office at that time). At that time too it was a very important document.
Now ten years have passed and we can look back today and say that they were not spent in vain. Although in some areas we have not moved as fast as we would have liked, the treaty fully reflects our desire for integration and our wish to live in the Union State.
One of the main subjects on the agenda today was the plan for joint action to minimise the financial crisis’ consequences. These years have not been easy for our countries, and this year has been particularly difficult. We worked very hard, but our economies face obvious problems nonetheless, and we shared information on these problems with each other today, examined their seriousness and impact, and went over our macroeconomic indicators. We have come through overall, but problems remain to be addressed nonetheless. We will continue our policy of support for the Belarusian economy. I hope that, despite the fact that we have perhaps not made such rapid progress in some areas, the decisions taken within the Union State framework, following our bilateral procedures, have helped to minimise the financial crisis’ impact.
We approved the Union State’s budget for 2010. It totals almost 5 billion rubles. We have maintained the budget at last year’s level despite the economic decline, and this is in keeping with our economic development priorities.
What do we need to do next? First of all, we need to resolve purely financial issues, and second, we need to expand production cooperation and build up our level of mutual trade. We already have substantial trade and cooperation, and this is one of the factors helping our countries to carry out the difficult task of achieving economic recovery and emerging from the difficult situation our economies are in at present.
We need to develop our energy sector cooperation, build up mutually beneficial interregional ties and encourage contacts between small and medium-sized business. These are all things we worked on today. We discussed a very broad range of issues: energy sector cooperation, and the next steps to take towards entering the Customs Union and creating a common customs space. When I visited Minsk, Mr Lukashenko and I agreed to step up this work so that when the agreement on oil product supplies expires at the end of this year it does not cause problems for our producers, consumers and economies, and so that we could settle on a reasonable compromise option on oil product supplies and the use of customs duties over the period until the new unified customs rules come into force in our countries. We spent a long time discussing this matter today, and it seems to me that we have found a formula enabling us to resolve this issue quite rapidly.
We discussed prospects for developing projects in the nuclear energy sector, including the construction of a nuclear power station in Belarus, and we looked at other questions too. We gave a lot of attention to cooperation in the banking sector and financial cooperation. We have agreements in these areas, and on some issues we also have our differences. There is no need to hide this. This is something normal. It is precisely by discussing these issues that we find the way forward and work out compromise solutions that meet the demands of both countries and economies.
Today, we approved another document too, the programme for coordinating our foreign policy action. I think this programme will also help us to resolve our domestic tasks through coordination of our foreign policy efforts on the international stage.
We examined a number of other agreements. We discussed how to go about implementing the concept for the Union State’s social development. We just signed agreements regulating our relations in military technical cooperation. Our relations in this area are the privileged relations of allies, but we nonetheless needed this important document.
We agreed too to step up work on ratifying the agreements signed during the council’s last meeting on air defence and a number of other issues. This agreement is currently before our parliament. I hope that our Belarusian friends will also submit this document for ratification. We have agreed to intensify our cooperation on the programme related to this agreement.
We signed another document today that I think is very important and reflects the spirit of our relations. This document concerns the sixty-fifth anniversary of victory [in the Great Patriotic War], which we will celebrate next year. This is a truly sacred day for our people, a special holiday, and we are preparing for it, supporting veterans and working on patriotic education. The President of Belarus and our Belarusian colleagues are doing likewise. I think this is all the more important today given the interpretation some countries, including countries directly on our borders, are now giving these events that are so sacred for our peoples – the peoples of Russia and Belarus.
We awarded decorations just now to our friends from the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus. I take this opportunity to congratulate sincerely all those who received high state decorations. All of the efforts you make in your work and your service contribute to strengthening the special relations that bind our countries together, and our countries have today shown recognition for your work. As President of the Russian Federation and Commander-in-Chief, I want to thank you sincerely for your work. I hope that you will continue to help develop the fraternal ties between our countries.
I think these kinds of meetings are very useful because they give us the chance to discuss complex issues, debate our differences and find compromise solutions, and by doing this, we are doing what we are supposed to do as presidents, namely, help to give our peoples – the citizens of the Union State, of Russia and Belarus – a better quality of life.
President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: Dear friends,
Ten years ago, here at the heart of Russia, in the Kremlin, we signed a truly destiny-making agreement – the Treaty Establishing the Union State of Russia and Belarus. I recall clearly those events and the particular atmosphere of that historic day, people’s enthusiasm and great expectations, the sense of hope and feeling of immense responsibility. I had no doubt on whether or not this was the right step. I was only carrying out the will of my people. After all, 9 out of 10 Belarusians voted in a referendum in favour of this union with fraternal Russia.
Now we are celebrating ten years since the signing of this treaty, which has given such a strong impulse for integration and development of cooperation in every field. This tenth anniversary is a celebration of the unity between brotherly peoples. This decade has been an eventful time in Belarusian-Russian relations. There has been good and bad. We have made good economic progress, increasing our trade turnover substantially and building up our cooperation. It’s no small thing to say that more than 5 million Belarusians and Russians are now engaged in carrying out joint projects under the supervision of the Supreme State Council.
Today, we approved the Union State’s budget of 5 billion Russian rubles. Our customs borders are being pushed back to the external borders of the Union State. This is also an achievement. We guarantee equal rights for Belarusian and Russian citizens, and are implementing the Union State’s social development concept. We follow a coordinated foreign policy strategy. We have established a unified regional group of military units and an overall effective system ensuring our union’s military security. A recent example, as the Russian President mentioned, was the recent Zapad-2009 military exercises. Today, we signed a number of very important documents that will further develop Belarusian-Russian military technical cooperation.
I want to note, and Mr Medvedev agrees with me – he expressed his position during those exercises – that the cooperation in the diplomatic and foreign policy fields, in defence and security, is an example of how our agencies should work. Cooperation between our different economic sectors and between our regions brings positive new results every day. The mutual benefits of the Union are obvious and extend to every area of our relations. Finally, our example has given impetus to integration in the post-Soviet area. I am sure that without the experience in building the Union State we would not have the Customs Union between Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. And if we did not have the Union State, we would not have the Eurasian Economic Community either. You realise this too.
Dmitry Medvedev: I’m not going to argue with you there.
Alexander Lukashenko: Unfortunately, there is still much in our plans that we need to actually implement, need to work on. We have not yet established a common economic space, but we are firmly committed to doing so, and not just within the Belarusian-Russian union, but bringing in Kazakhstan too, through the Customs Union.
There are still examples in our relations of narrow interest-based opportunist approaches to building the union. We have not yet made full use of the organisational potential we have in order to respond more effectively and in better coordinated fashion to today’s threats and challenges. Each year brings new problems it seems: the crisis, or environmental problems, or other problems again. People are waiting for us to complete work on creating a common information space with equal access for all. In other words, we still have plenty of issues that need to be settled.
But nevertheless, if we add up all the pluses and minuses and objectively evaluate these 10 years of work, I can say with confidence (and I think my Russian colleague will agree) that the Union State is not an illusion but is a real entity, the most advanced integration entity in the post-Soviet area. It has by no means exhausted its potential and has clear prospects for development. This is the view we take as presidents, in any case.
Today, we need not only to make clear and understandable decisions; we need to actually carry them out, without red tape and departmental narrow-mindedness, but acting in the spirit of mutual trust and common goals. Belarusian-Russian relations will develop successfully only if these firm commitments and clear sense of purpose becoming the axiom for bilateral relations at every level of government.
I find full understanding from the Russian leadership on this, and it is pleasing to see that there are so many people in Russia and Belarus who are genuinely ready to put all their effort into building our union and are already hard at work.
The contribution these people make to bringing our fraternal peoples closer together deserves worthy recognition now, as we celebrate the Union’s tenth anniversary. The award of state decorations today was just a drop in the ocean, recognition of the services of just a few of the individuals in the sea of people working on bringing our peoples together.
We are also grateful to the Orthodox clergy, to the Patriarch, and to Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus Filaret, for working productively towards Belarusian-Russian union. Patriarch Kirill and Patriarchal Exarch Filaret do much indeed to promote spiritual unity (and not just spiritual) and bring us closer together. I see the pain it causes them whenever misunderstandings or lack of understanding arise in our relations.
Honest people of good conscience, strong supporters of integration are moving our Union forward. The desire of Belarusian and Russian peoples to live together as one family is the strongest foundation and most solid support for their work.
I want to repeat now what I said 10 years ago, and I ask Russian society, especially the media, to take this as my basic position. You here in Russia should know that you have worthy friends to the west, on the western borders of our common fatherland, friends who are always ready to support and defend you, and share with you whatever we have. These are not just words. These are concrete actions.
So, let us do everything we can to build our Union more successfully, without delays and suspensions. Let us do everything we can to implement in full the plans that our peoples agreed to with such enthusiasm 10 years ago.
Mr Medvedev already said that today, the Supreme State Council, the Union State’s highest body, examined a whole range of issues. Indeed, we examined 18 different areas. This included the energy sector, finances, defence, military technical cooperation, security, and a range of foreign policy issues (we approved decisions in this area). We spent half the time looking at the measures we need to take to step up trade between our countries. We also examined the work of the Supreme State Council, the Council of Ministers and the other Union State bodies. We adopted the budget for the coming year and decided that the Supreme State Council will hold its next session next July in the hero city of Minsk. It is with great pleasure that we will welcome our Russian brothers to Minsk to discuss the issues that we will resolve in the interests of our two fraternal peoples.