MINSK, 12 January (BelTA) – The implementation of the Belarus-Russia Union State integration programs was in focus of the meeting hosted by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko on 12 January, BelTA has learned.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the implementation of 28 sectoral programs adopted at the meeting of the Union State Supreme State Council roughly a year ago. “In other words, this is our program of action - for Belarus and Russia - for the coming period. We were in agreement back then that their implementation would significantly propel the efforts to ensure equal rights of individuals and economic entities of the two countries. Equal conditions for people and companies are the foundation for our relations with fraternal Russia. That is why we agreed on many decisions regarding our cooperation with the Russian Federation,” the head of state explained.
According to him, the programs primarily concern economic integration, creation of an environment conducive to cooperation between companies of the two countries.
Areas where little headway was made
The programs and departmental plans contain about a thousand activities. These programs have deadlines and specific persons in charge, the president recalled. “About 70% of such activities have already been completed. However, the implementation of some of the important [activities] is lagging behind the agreed schedules. As I am informed, our Russian partners are moving slowly on a number of issues. Yet I always say that we cannot put the blame on just one side. We are also under-performing,” the president said.
According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, a lot of work has been done to create and adjust the legal framework for interstate cooperation. “Yet, despite the implementation of most of the measures, Belarus has not yet seen any noticeable progress, primarily in energy sector, manufacturing, and transport,” he continued. “The implementation of the programs to create common markets for gas, oil and oil products required consideration at the highest level. During the December talks with the president of Russia, the necessary solutions were found (at least for three years). Now work is underway to formalize these arrangements in existing documents,” the president added.
Supranational tax committee
The president emphasized that everything should be transparent when it comes to such important areas of work as harmonization of tax legislation and coordination of tax and customs control on the borders of the Union State. “The Russians are okay with Belarusian representatives inspecting any point of the border to see what is going on there. Traceability, control over commodity flows - you must admit, this is an important matter for any state,” he said.
A proposal to ratify the Treaty on General Principles of Taxation on Indirect Taxes was submitted to the president for consideration. “Before signing the relevant bill into law, I would like to revisit the issues that I have identified (primarily customs and tax legislation), and to make sure that all interests and proposals have been taken on board, first of all, on our part,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that the current version of the treaty provides, among other things, for the creation of an additional interstate supranational tax committee. The head of state questioned the title of the committee and asked for clarification on the matter.
“I emphasize once again that it will not lead to the loss of any part of our sovereignty. Taxes will be calculated and laws will be adopted in Belarus as before,” the head of state said. He recalled that the Tax Code was passed not so long ago. The situation with specific taxes might change in the future: some taxes will be reduced, some will be increased, as it has always happened. “We are independent in our decision-making in this important area; there will be just closer coordination of activities with Russia. And this small structure [supranational tax committee] is being created for coordination,” the head of state explained. According to him, this new structure will be focused primarily on improving the tax legislation of the two countries. The same approaches will be applied to customs administration.
The head of state emphasized that common conceptual approaches and guidelines should be developed for the relevant national authorities of Belarus and Russia within the framework of these agreements. This way they will not have to double-check things after each other. “This body, the committee will not have such powers,” the Belarusian leader assured.
Terms to continue economic integration with Russia
“Of course, we will continue to deepen economic integration with Russia, but we will proceed to a new package of integration documents only after the previous one is implemented in full. If at least one clause is not implemented, there can be no talk of a new package of integration documents. We made a point of it with the president of the Russian Federation at the last meeting in St. Petersburg,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
The president urged to make the greatest possible effort to implement the programs and to avoid delays in decision-making. “Yet, there shouldn't be any haste either. God forbid we make a mistake,” the head of state warned. According to him, it will be impossible to turn the situation back after the decisions are enshrined in the laws of the two countries, so it is necessary to tread carefully and cautiously. “Especially now, when our countries are jointly resisting the rampant pressure of sanctions on the part of the so-called collective West,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.
The president drew attention to the fact that the governments of Belarus and Russia and the prime ministers personally are responsible for the implementation of the integration programs. “All the issues that you raised with the presidents have been resolved. Solutions have been found. We live a normal life. The conditions for our enterprises, companies and households are a bit better than last year and maybe even more than just a bit. This pertains to the supply of energy resources from Russia. “As to our dependence on Russia's gas, oil, petroleum products and other commodities, things are better now. If something has not been formalized yet and has not made it to documents, here is the prime minister, the government, you can discuss issues with them. The heads of state made the necessary decisions. I will put it frankly: Russia responded favorably to everything that we asked,” the president said.
Neither Belarus nor Russia compromises their sovereignty
“I warn you that there has been no talk of Russia or Belarus giving up their sovereignty, and there can't be such talk. There is simply no need [for that]. The existing format of cooperation with Russia has not been exhausted yet,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
According to the president, if the two countries see at some point in the future that additional decisions are needed to promote integration and facilitate economic convergence, the relevant issues will be discussed.
According to the head of state, this matter is the main reason why he invited so many officials for the meeting. “Do not think that some issues are being dealt with behind your back, and you are not aware of this. No, this process is open and fair. Moreover, time is pushing us towards such an approach to addressing these problems,” the president said.
The head of state emphasized that it was not just a decision of the presidents of the two countries to pass the 28 Union State programs. The adoption of the programs was preceded by a long period of preparatory work. “Putin and I did not make any decisions off the cuff. We did not. The officials in charge had met and discussed these programs at the Supreme State Council. We approved these programs. Yet, the situation was heated up when we were adopting these programs,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.
He recalled that at one time there were various proposals as to what to include in the integration package, up to the proposal to create a parliament and other things. However, in the end, Belarus and Russia agreed on those 28 programs that are currently being implemented, and everything else was rejected. It was decided that if the two countries were not yet ready to address some issues, they should be left aside for the time being. “We will make decisions on them if needed. That was what was said. And we have always insisted that first things first. It was of fundamental importance. And these 28 programs remained. They deal with social and economic matters, as well as security issues. The time has changed that those security programs that we approved more than a year ago are no longer relevant . We have already moved very far in our bilateral relations when it comes to security matters,” the president said.
“In other words, life pushed us for closer integration. This is how we should act. We should act according to the situation. Otherwise, we will ruin everything,” the Belarusian leader added.
Belarus and Russia are set to implement 28 Union State programs that contain a total of about a thousand events. They were completed by almost 68% (671 out of 989 activities). As of the early 2023, seven programs have been fully implemented. They deal with the traceability of goods, as well as transport, currency, veterinary and phytosanitary control. There are also programs in the financial sector, accounting, and nuclear energy. Work continues on 21 programs, including programs in agriculture, transport, industry, and energy.