17 Aug 2021 15:01

Minsk, Moscow practically coordinated integration roadmaps - Belarusian deputy PM

MINSK. Aug 17 (Interfax) - Belarus and Russia have practically finalized the coordination of a package of integration documents, Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Snopkov said.

"We have practically coordinated a package of integration documents that includes fundamental areas and 28 sectoral programs of the Union [State], as well as draft resolutions of the Union [State's] Council of Ministers and the Supreme State Council of the Union State on their approval," the state-run media outlet SB. Belarus Segodnya quoted Snopkov as telling Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Tuesday.

Negotiations on the package of integration roadmaps resumed in the summer of 2020 to unfreeze the dialogue that was put on hold at the end of 2019, he said. "The core interests of each side rapidly manifested themselves in the [negotiating] process. Russians care about tax and customs regulation, i.e. transparent monitoring of commodities. We are interested in the terms of energy cooperation and access to the Russian market," Snopkov said.

"The interconnectedness of the cross interests" constituted the biggest problem at the negotiations, he said.

Lukashenko said on August 9 that Belarus and Russia had discarded the political integration roadmap at this development stage at the proposal of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We've had 30 or 31 roadmaps. Putin and I immediately scrapped the 31st roadmap, which contained a political agenda. This was Vladimir Vladimirovich's [Putin's] proposal at some negotiations," Lukashenko said when meeting with members of the press and public.

"He [Putin] said very wise words then: if we can't implement this 31st roadmap, let's put it aside. Or let's scrap it completely. It [the 31st roadmap] was about supranational bodies and so on... I supported him then. We won't lose anything, because we don't have supranational, but joint bodies, say, joint boards of the industry ministries and defense ministries, and they should be engaged in work on all matters," he said.

Lukashenko did not rule out political integration in the long-term future.

He also believes that all 28 sectoral economic integration roadmaps could be adopted at a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State at the end of 2021.

"I'd like to hope that the Supreme State Council of the Union State will meet this year, at the end of the year, as we agreed with the president [Putin]. It should be a landmark event, as we are due to make very serious decisions. I believe we will adopt these 28 roadmaps or union programs. That would be a colossal step forward," Lukashenko said.

The roadmap that envisages equal purchase conditions and prices of natural gas remains uncoordinated, he said.

Minsk and Moscow resumed negotiations on the package of integration documents at the end of 2018 at the initiative of then Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The latter proposed that the integration be deepened on the basis of the Union State Treaty signed in 1999 in response to the call of then Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Rumas for reimbursing Belarus for the costs of Russia's tax maneuver. The Belarusian authorities said that Minsk would incur losses of approximately $10 billion in 2019-2024 from the Russian tax maneuver, which would raise the cost of Russian oil, and the phased lifting of export duties on petroleum products.

The package of roadmaps was due to be signed by the two presidents in December 2019, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Russia-Belarus Union State. Yet, another bilateral oil crisis broke out at the end of December and Russia suspended oil supply to Belarus for the first quarter of 2020.

Lukashenko said on June 1 that Minsk and Moscow had agreed on reimbursing Belarus for the losses incurred as a result of the tax maneuver.