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MINSK, May 31 (Itar-Tass) - Ukraine will officially confirm its commitment to have an observer status in the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. A memorandum to this effect will be signed on Friday by Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov and chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission Viktor Khristenko on the sidelines of the meeting of the CIS heads of government in Minsk.
On Wednesday, the Customs Union presidents met in Kazakhstan’s Astana. The four-hour talks that also involved the presidents of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan yielded a decision to commit to paper these two countries’ intention to integrate with the Customs Union, Russian Firest Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov told journalists.
According to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov has been instructed to sign in Minsk on May 31 a document that will state Kiev’s commitment for closer integration with the Common Economic Space. So far, Ukraine seeks an observer status. The problem however is that until now the Customs Union has provided for no such status. This problem is yet to be settled - though amendments to certain documents. The first step to settle it will be the memorandum to be signed in Minsk.
Russia has hailed Ukraine’s orientation towards cooperation and integration. “It is a very important decision, which will be beneficial for the Eurasian Economic Union, which is being formed, and will encourage Ukraine’s economic development,” Shuvalov stressed. Until a final decision on Ukraine’s status is taken (Kiev wants to have the observer status from January 1, 2015), the country will be allowed to be present at all meetings and events as a guest.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian prime minister stressed that his country will not be confined merely to the observer status in the Customs Union.
It is also planned to sign a memorandum on Kyrgyzstan’s intention to join the Customs Union. Back in 2011, the Kyrgyz authorities announced their plans to seek integration with the Common Economic Space.
The Customs Union is a common customs territory where its member countries enjoy common customs tariffs and do not use customs duties or economic restrictions other that special anti-dumping measures. Unlike a free trade zone, the Customs Union has a common customs tariff and trade policy towards thirds countries. The Customs Union agreement was signed on October 6, 2007 in Dushanbe by the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Formally, the Customs Union came into existence on January 1, 2010. A common Customs Code came into force in its three countries in July 2010. Since July 1, 2010, customs control has been exercised only at the outer borders of the three countries. Inner borders have only border and migration control.
At a meeting in Moscow on November 27, 2009, the presidents of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan decided in favor of closer economic integration - the Common Economic Space, with similar economic regulation mechanisms based on market principles and common laws. The Common Economic Space provides for the removal of barriers in mutual trade, for the establishment of a common market of goods, services, capital and labor, and agreed currency policy. The Common Economic Space came into being from January 1, 2012.
A next step of Eurasian integration is the Eurasian Economic Union. The agreement on its establishment is to be signed by May 1, 2014 and hence the Union will start functions within the Customs Union from January 1, 2015.