23 Dec 2019 22:44

Entire integration package with Russia could be approved in next few days - Minsk

MINSK. Dec 23 (Interfax) - The governments of Belarus and Russia are planning to agree on the entire package of integration agreements over the next two or three days and to have it signed by the presidents of the two countries at a ceremony, Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Krutoi said.

"Today our integration package, save a few issues to be clarified in the next two or three days, is largely agreed upon, and we will choose the time for our leaders to sign or initial it at a ceremony. This would lend an unprecedented new impetus to our relations," Krutoi said at a formal reception at the Russian Embassy to Belarus on Monday.

The integration maps will focus "primarily on the economy," he said.

Initially, when the two sides only started working on an enhanced integration program, progress was very slow, Krutoi said. "There is nothing surprising about this. Especially in the past few years when the Russian Federation found itself in a very difficult situation, and effectively had to transform its economic and financial policies under unprecedented external pressure. Hence the budget consolidation, the introduction of rules, the tax maneuver, the import-substitution policy, and so on," Krutoi said.

Initially this was perceived in Belarus as a contradiction, he said. "Being [Russia's] closest partner, much of this seemed to be against us. Russian colleagues from relevant government agencies explained that this was not so. And now we can feel that," Krutoi said.

"All these wars that we had, gas, oil, sugar, problems with the access to tractors, milk and something else, of course they left our regulators under the impression of some absolutely unhealthy confrontation which hindered the first stage of work. But when people realized that this was serious, that this was an attempt to build economic relations on a new footing (this instruction came from the very top), there is no more need to fear most progressive forms of cooperation and interaction, the process, put frankly, has got underway," Krutoi said.

It was reported that after talks between the two countries' presidents in St. Petersburg on December 20 three key issues (for Minsk) were yet to be agreed: prices for oil, natural gas, and the tax policy, including a tax maneuver compensation.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said after the talks that fundamental agreements had been reached on the terms of energy supplies and that the cost of these deliveries to Belarus in 2020 were to be agreed in the near future.