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Russia, Belarus enter home stretch on negotiating Union economic integration, says PM

Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko underscored that Russia and Belarus were constructing a new model of relations within the single economic space

MINSK, June 1. /TASS/. Russia and Belarus have entered the home stretch in negotiating all Union programs on economic integration, Belarusian Prime Minister Roman Golovchenko said after a meeting on cooperation with Russia, attended by President Alexander Lukashenko.

"The government disclosed the outcome of negotiations with its Russian colleagues, which has been actively proceeding since last fall. Effectively, we are entering the home stretch on the negotiation of all Union programs that cover the establishment of a single economic domain of the two countries, in order to ensure equal conditions for the economic entities of Russia and Belarus," Golovchenko said.

According to the premier, the work on these programs should be wrapped up before this fall.

"We have several issues to polish up, so that we can finish up the entire job and present the prepared solutions to the heads of states," he noted.

Golovchenko underscored that Russia and Belarus were constructing a new model of relations within the single economic space.

"We are building a new model of relations within a single economic domain in order to ensure not just equal conditions, but new economic models that should synchronously evolve," the prime minister said, noting that neither the political nor economic sovereignty of Belarus would be placed in harm’s way.

Building a path to integration

Russian-Belarusian integration has been going on for over 20 years, complicated by both parties’ different strategic interests and a number of problems in relations between Moscow and Minsk. According to the 1999 Treaty on the Creation of a Union State, the establishment of the association implies the adoption of a Union constitution and the establishment of supranational structures (including a two-chamber parliament, a court and an accounting chamber), the creation of a single economic domain, the introduction of a single currency with a single emission center, as well as unified energy systems, the harmonization of trade and customs policies, and a single tax system. However, these developments have not been completed yet.

In December 2018, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus, decided to establish an inter-governmental working group on the development of this integration. By November 1, 2019, the parties had put together 31 draft roadmaps with a number of measures on the establishment of common markets in various fields of the economy. These steps include, in particular, the unification of tax legislation, the establishment of conditions for joint petrochemical, industrial, agricultural and transport markets.

By December 2019, the two governments had concurred on the bulk of the roadmaps, but could not reach agreements on a number of them. Minsk has tied the deeper integration to lower prices for Russian natural gas, compensation for losses due to the tax maneuver, and the removal of restrictions for Belarusian products on the Russian market. According to Lukahsenko, "no roadmaps could be signed" until these "principal questions" were resolved. On February 22, 2021, the Belarusian head of state said during his meeting with the Russian leader that the two countries have 6-7 roadmaps left to fine-tune.