27 Mar 2019 18:13

Common currency issue may be included in agenda of working group on Belarus-Russia integration - Rapota

MINSK. March 27 (Interfax) - The issue of creating a common currency of Russia and Belarus, the common ruble, may be included in the agenda of the sessions of the recently created working group on Belarusian-Russian integration and debated issues, Grigory Rapota, state secretary of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, said.

"No decisions have been made on this matter, no separate talks are being conducted. It is possible that this issue will be addressed by the working group," Rapota said in an interview with Izvestia, commenting on the possibility of the creation of the common ruble of Belarus and Russia.

Rapota also said the Russian ruble now accounts for 80% of the bilateral settlements. He also said he does not find it expedient to use administrative resources to put the other settlements in rubles. "You can't do it by force. There are economic entities, who should be interested in transitioning to ruble payments. But currency is used where it's convenient to pay in currency. It's a natural process," Rapota said.

Commenting on the debate on the possibility of compensating Minsk for the costs of Russia's tax maneuver in the oil industry, which happened in late 2018, the state secretary said the parties continue negotiations. "Consultations are being conducted on this issue and I very much want a mutually acceptable decision to be found," Rapota said.

Various forms can be found to resolve the problem, he said. "There is a broad field of opportunities here: we can leave everything as it is, we can find possibilities for compensation in other spheres of interaction. Various forms are possible. It happens that agreements in one sphere, in this case, economic, are combined with the solution of issues in other areas of interaction, social, military, political," he said.

The working group on integration, which was created in December 2018 and which is led by the two countries' economy Ministers Maxim Oreshkin and Dmitry Krutoi, continues working on the development of the Union State, Rapota said. "We are studying alternatives of Union State development. It may create conditions for resolving the tax maneuver problem," he said,

According to earlier reports, the issue of the common currency of the Union State was raised again by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in December 2018 at a meeting of the Union State's Council of Ministers in the context of Belarus's requests for compensation for the losses from the Russian tax maneuver. Medvedev suggested updating the 1999 treaty on the creation of the Union State by including in it the formation of a common issue center, a common customs service, court, and Audit Chamber. He said he believes such level of integration would make it possible to pursue a unified tax and customs policy and a common pricing policy.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said on March 1 that he hypothetically did not object to the introduction of a common currency in the Union State, but it should not be Belarusian or Russian ruble. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov later said there were no specifics on the issue of the transition of Russia and Belarus to a common currency, but the issue can and should be discussed.