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22 Apr 2014

Belarus wants no exemptions in Eurasian Economic Union

MINSK, 22 April (BelTA) – Belarus will keep insisting on removing all exemptions and restrictions while establishing the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). The matter should be settled before the Eurasian Economic Union Treaty is signed. The Belarusian President made the statement when answering questions from MPs after the State of the Nation Address on 22 April, BelTA learned.

When asked what the domestic economy and economic operators can expect after the establishment of the EEU, the head of state underlined: “The terms will not be worse than now. They might be even better if Russia, first of all, keeps its promise. The Russian President once said that Russia is ready to remove exemptions and restrictions on 1 January 2015. This was announced at a narrow-participation meeting and at an extended meeting two or two and a half years ago. Premier Medvedev also said it when he was President”. Alexander Lukashenko noted that he put down all these statements and is ready to show them at the Minsk session on 29 April.

“It was repeated multiple times that these exemptions and restrictions will be removed. Russia was even ahead of others in this respect. We voiced our concern that this might lead to certain consequences for the production of pharmaceuticals, alcohol, as well as banking. Kazakhstan was particularly worried about banking and transportation. We voiced our concerns, but Russia kept insisting on removing exemptions and restrictions,” the Belarusian head of state said. At present, the situation is somewhat different due to a number of factors. “Kazakhstan seems to be okay with everything that is going on because its major priority is to join the WTO and later our economic union. Russia seems to be fine, too. Belarus has made it clear that we stick to the position that we voiced earlier,” the President explained.

The Belarusian leader emphasized that today many countries – from Ukraine to Tajikistan – are closely watching what these efforts will lead to. “They want to know how the economic union will benefit the member states. We believe that there should not be any barriers for the movement of capital and workforce, that everything should be as easy as if it were within one country. The exemptions and restrictions should be removed,” Alexander Lukashenko said.

“For example, if we buy oil from Russia for the domestic industry (we have two powerful oil refineries in Belarus) and the price is the same as in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, then these products are ours and we should be able to do whatever we want with them, sell them and get money for our budget. However, today we transfer part of the revenues to the Russian budget. They say – buy this product, process it and sell, but give us part of the money. Is it okay for partners?” the President asked. In his words, Russia admitted that such a situation is unacceptable in an economic union, but “all of a sudden its position changed and it is fine with it now”.

In this connection, the Belarusian leader wants to tell his partners and guests who will come to Minsk on 29 April that if they want to establish an economic union, this should be a classic economic union. “Let us remove all the restrictions. If they are not ready to sign the economic union treaty today, but in some 10 years or 15 years as some of them suggest, it is fine with us, we will sign it later. Much depends on Russia. If Russia does not want to establish the economic union in the Customs Union, let us make it on the bilateral level, however, we should be equal,” the President said.

“If we do not sign the economic union treaty, no one will believe us anymore. I have said it publically in Moscow. People have expectations about it. We failed in the CIS; we did not reach the goals declared by the Union State Treaty. We switched to this project, so let us do something here. This is our fundamental position, this is our goal,” Alexander Lukashenko added.

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