Belarus-Russia Union State
Russia is the single largest partner for Belarus in the economic and political fields. One-third of all Belarusian exports go to Russia, including the vast majority of industrial goods--such as tractors, buses, and trucks--and dairy and meat products. Due to the structure of Belarusian industry, Belarus relies heavily on other CIS countries, and Russia in particular, both for export markets and for the supply of raw materials, subsidized energy, and components.
The Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation entered the way towards full-scale unity on April 2nd, 1996, when, impressing their peoples' will, the Presidents of the two countries, Alexander Lukashenko and Boris Yeltsin signed a Contract on the creation of a Belarusian and Russian Community in Moscow.
On April 2nd, 1997, the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation signed the Contract on the Belarus and Russia Union that added a new impulse to the process of the omnibus integration of the two states.
An important stage on the way to constructing relations and developments between the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation was the signing of a Declaration on further unity between Belarus and Russia, the Contract on the equal rights of citizens, the Agreement on the creation of equal conditions for enterprises and the Protocol to it on December 25th, 1998. The two countries' Presidents stated in these documents their hard determination to continue stage-by-stage movements towards a free-will coalition, the result of which had to be a union state, with the national sovereignty of the Union's states-members to be kept.
The Contract on the equal rights of citizens as well as the Agreement on the creation of equal conditions for enterprises, stated some specific tasks and terms of major integration problem salvation in front of Belarus' and Russia's State administration authorities, and allowed them to concentrate their efforts on the most important decisive directions of the co-operation. Realisation of the measures planned in these documents had to create some premises for a breakthrough to a new working stage - creation of the Union State.
The Contract on the creation of the Union State came into force on January 26th, 2000.
In the course of the Contract's development, some normative legislative acts that regulate the Union State authorities' activities, i.e. the Statute and Regulation of the Highest State Council, regulations on the legal status and social guarantees of the Union State's officials and a number of others have been worked on and enacted.
Decisive meaning in organising effective work on the Contract's for realising the creation of the Union State are given to the Union State's authorities.
Formed and in force are the Highest State Council, Council of Ministers and Continuous Committee of the Union State. Created are Neighbouring and Customs Committees, the Committee on Security, and the Broadcaster organisation of the Union State. Also in force are united Ministries' collegiums and administrations of Belarus and Russia.
The working out of the structure of other sphere and functional bodies within the Union State has also been started, as well as suggestions for the formations of Courts, Commissions on human rights, and Treasury and Counter Chambers of the Union State.
One of the most important rings in the structure of the union bodies that are to be formed is the Parliament. Its lower chamber - the Chamber of Representatives will be elected on the basis of a general election right within a secret vote.
On the account of Union budget funds, about 40 joint programs and events receive financing. In the past two years, much work has been implemented on improving the budget process. One thing that has already been worked out and enacted is the order to provide budgetary means for the realisation of joint programmes of a reversionary and recoverable basis that gives an opportunity to further and significantly increase the Union budget on account of the frequent usage of existing financial resources.
Approximately 180 enterprises of the Republic of Belarus and more than 250 Russian ones take part in realising the joint programs.
Major efforts by Belarus and Russia were directed at preparing and enacting the documents that form a basis for the area of economic unity. The creation of equal conditions for enterprises is to make an economic foundation for the future Union State, as well as create conditions for the equal rights of Belarusian and Russian citizens.
The Custom Union agreement between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan was reached on December 2009, to come into law July 1, 2010. Complication with Belarus resulted in a slight delay and it came into force on July 6, 2010, when all three countries finally ratified it. Some customs procedures at the Russian / Belarusian and Russian / Kazakhstani border have been slightly changed by the Unified Custom Code, but the national custom posts on the borders between the three countries remain until July 1, 2011. At that time, customs clearance among the three countries was terminated and was moved to the outer borders of the CU member states. Initially most changes in custom procedures apply to passengers' luggage and cash.
The unified Custom Union Code (CUC) determines terminology, codes, and import duties on commodities shipped to the Custom Union. Custom codes and custom import duties for most food and agricultural products remain the same as Russian codes and import duties. Initially, most rules and requirements for food and agriculture imports to Russia remain unchanged. The Custom Union Commission adopts the Union's legislative documents, including those documents pertaining to the unification of veterinary, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements.
On December 9, 2010, Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed 17 agreements on the establishment of the Single Economic Space, which came into effect on January 1, 2012. Its member states claim that the SES was established in compliance with World Trade Organization (WTO) norms, which will take precedence over SES obligations, and ensure a free flow of goods, capital, and labor among Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. However, due to Russia’s 2012 WTO accession, Belarus, which is not a WTO member, faces competition from cheap, world-class goods that will enter Russia through the WTO and from there to Belarus. Belarus will not have the same preferential access to WTO markets as Russia.
Several important groups favor improved relations with the West to ward off increasing Russian influence. Viktor Lukashenko [President Alexander Lukashenko's son] and his supporters understand that just like democratic reforms, any real movement toward union with Russia would strip them of their privileged position. As of 2006 it was said that Belarusian business and financial elites such as Yuriy Chizh and Aleksey Vaganov understood that they cannot compete against Russian business in open privatizations. In non-transparent deals they could use their connections with European partners to buy up property. Prime Minister Sergey Sidorskiy, his first deputy Vladimir Semashko and others in the Council of Ministers such as Energy Minister Aleksandr Ozerets feared losing influence.
Lukashenko would like the West to think that he can always turn toward Russia rather than face continued isolation. In fact, options for improved relations with Moscow are limited. Many of those around the dictator seek to resist Moscow's gravitational pull. Unfortunately, Lukashenko's Soviet instincts have not allowed his underlings to appease the West with even minor democratic reforms.
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