_ Saint Petersbug. 6 December 2018.
Two summits were held simultaneously in Saint Petersburg today. They were the Eurasian Economic Union Summit and an informal meeting of the CIS state leaders. One of the main results is that the countries of the Union agreed on programs for the formation of a common oil and gas markets. They are also working on the idea of creating a unified payment system. Vladimir Putin opening the summit with a few additional suggestions.
Vladimir Putin: “It’s generally agreed that the most important integration tasks include increasing the efficiency of the intra-Union market, strengthening industrial cooperation, creating a unified digital space, and closer coordination in exchange rates and monetary policies. We agreed to carry out large-scale programs for the formation of common markets in gas, oil, and petroleum products”.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus: “Gas at the border of Smolensk Oblast costs almost $130 per thousand cubic meters, and the established wholesale price for consumers in the same Smolensk Oblast is $70, which is almost half the price. A simple question is how to compete in this situation?”
Vladimir Putin: “I draw your attention to the fact that today, the price for Belarus is $129 per thousand cubic meters, it will be $127 next year. And Germany buys gas at $250. And this is certainly a great advantage for our EurAsEC allies, although, of course, we should strive for complete unification. This requires time and a different level of integration between our countries”.
Alexander Lukashenko: “Our main partner is not Germany, but the Russian Federation. And we need that our brotherly Russia and Belarus are in equal conditions, first and foremost, this is the issue. And you were right when you said that we decided to reach this level by 2025. If we go like this, there won’t be any issues.
Vladimir Putin: “That’s what will happen. But I just draw your attention to the fact that today, our partners already have sufficient advantages. I mentioned Germany for a reason. If Belarus had no advantages related to integration, we would form a price based on market principles, and it wouldn’t be $129 or $127, but $200. That’s the difference”.
The journalists, watching the discussion, noticed the sign saying “free microphone”. It’s for experts and observers. Today’s conversation, apparently, required some clarification repeatedly. At least, the conversation between Vladimir Putin and Anton Siluanov proved it. Minister Novak joined the dialogue with the president, and after the conversation ended, they even left the room together. But integration isn’t just negotiations and clarification, but mutual benefit, first and foremost. In 2018, trade between the countries increased by about 12%. And in the prestigious Doing Business ranking, the EurAsEC is now ranked 31st.
The conversation is Saint Petersburg is both summarizing and making plans for the future. By the way, not only next year’s goals are discussed. Integration implies a long-term agenda and a number of large-scale tasks. The format is beginning to attract more people. The president of the observer state Moldova was among the participants in the conversation. But in the mid-1990s, after the collapse of the Union, it seemed that no interaction could be in the post-Soviet space for a long time. However, even then, the president of Kazakhstan considered it necessary to form bridges between the countries.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan: “Back in 1994, I first came up with the idea of creating this particular integration project at Moscow State University. Back then, I imagined a powerful economic union, which would become an important actor in the international arena, and its actions would attract others who’d want to work with us. In fact, this idea has become a reality”.
The next meeting of the Supreme Economic Council, timed to coincide with the 5th anniversary of the Union, will be held in the spring of 2019 in Astana. Russia will transfer the presidency to Armenia. Yerevan considers this an opportunity for economic development.
Nikol Pashinyan, Acting Prime Minister of Armenia: “Armenia is interested in deeper integration processes within the EAEU. We are ready to continue to make every effort to improve the integration of institutions and search for new paths and mechanisms of cooperation”.
The leaders of the CIS states also came to St. Petersburg today. Vladimir Putin greeted every guest. Such a multi-level meeting is a kind of example: integration can develop at different speeds and in different formats. The main thing is to maintain good neighborly relations and respect others’ interests.