The Union state of Belarus and Russia: the future is uncertain

Союзное государство Беларуси и России: будущее туманно

The anniversary of the integration project in Minsk and Moscow meet, and didn’t sign roadmaps integration. Now because in the fashion industry, the development of the Union state will be paused, observers say.

April 2 marks the Day of unity of peoples of Belarus and Russia. This date is associated with the signing in 1996 of the Treaty establishing the community of Belarus and Russia, which gave way to the Belarusian-Russian integration and, subsequently, the creation of the Union state. Observers note that today, as nearly a quarter of a century ago, prospects of the integration project remain vague. Is there any future for the Union state, figuring DW.

Integration with Belarus is not a priority for Russia

Analyst with the Belarusian Institute for strategic studies (BISS) Katherine of Slatina for a long time, the Union state Treaty existed only on paper, the talks about further integration have intensified in 2019. Then Minsk spoke about compensation for lost income of the Belarusian budget due to the Russian tax maneuver in the oil industry. And Moscow, through the lips of the then Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in the answer has offered the choice: either to deepen integration and to rely on benefits, either to keep in the Union state as is (a conservative variant), but lose the previous financial and economic support.

Although the negotiations went on for years, Minsk and Moscow failed to agree on the content integration road maps. According to media reports, talking to them was about a unified Tax code, foreign trade regime and the Civil code, a unified account of ownership and similar social guarantees, almost merged banking supervision (but with the two Central Banks), the single regulator of oil markets, gas and electricity and a harmonised regulation of industries.

The fact that in December last year, the two sides have not signed the road map on the deepening of integration within the Union state, Director of the Belarusian Center for European integration Yuri Shevtsov believes the problem is not: “Belarus and Russia in the late 90’s signed a Treaty of Alliance, but now are unable to move to the second phase of political integration. Similar situation was in the beginning”. But, according to the analyst, if not political integration, this does not mean that you need to deny the first phase of the Belarusian-Russian integration project, during which it was solved a lot of problems.

However, in the near future, said Katherine of Slatina, the development of bilateral relations in this direction should not be expected. “The initiative of updating the Union Treaty came from Russia, but now because of internal problems it obviously priorities have shifted. In addition, Putin decided his future after 2024, and the Federal government do not have”, – says the analyst. Minsk, in turn, will intensify the negotiations on the roadmaps, because it is never consistent with the interests of Belarus, adds Slatina.

The Federal government initially was ” stillborn “

The nature of Belarusian-Russian relations, of course, influenced by external circumstances. The world faces a pandemic of coronavirus, the price of oil has reached extremely low level, the IMF announced the beginning of the recession in the global economy. In such a situation, according to the Director of the Centre for European transformation Andrei Yahorau, the future of the Union state not otherwise vague: “Until these issues are settled down in Russia, the deepening of integration will be in limbo.”

Similar opinion is shared by Yuriy Shevtsov. He believes that now the development of the Union state paused: “as long as Russia will solve the problem of quarantine, it is unlikely that Moscow will find the time to get back to the Belarusian issue. In such circumstances, will not be too strong deterioration of the situation, nothing is moving forward.”

Speaking about the prospects of the Union state as a project of supranational integration, Andrei Yahorau notes that he never had a future, because it was originally a “stillborn” project. The analyst reminds that the interest of Alexander Lukashenko, when it all began, has been associated with dreams to lead the Federal government, however, with the advent of Vladimir Putin to power in Russia they disappeared.

“So pragmatic fact the Federal government has not, and in the political sense hanging over Belarus as a sword of Damocles, that at any time can be used for enforcement are not very beneficial solutions,” adds Egorov. Moreover, according to the analyst, the unilateral closure of a place of coronavirus the Russian-Belarusian border has demonstrated that for her the interests of Minsk is not so important and all allied rhetoric is nothing more than rhetoric. “In a problem situation, no one will take into account the opinion of Belarus when making decisions”, – said Andrei Yahorau.

Will Russia continue to pay for the loyalty of Belarus?

Meanwhile, Minsk and Moscow still has not settled before the end of the “oil crisis” – not agreed on the price, in January Russia stopped oil supplies to Belarus. Later, some Russian companies still have to sell oil to Belarus, but in amounts not sufficient to continue the export of oil products, which is very important for the Belarusian economy. And only on the background of the recent fall in global oil prices there is the prospect of an exit from a three-month conflict.

“Obviously, with the end of 2017 Russia no longer wants to pay for the loyalty of Belarus at the old prices and the old model. In Moscow want real progress and closer integration, but so far in this direction, nothing has changed,” says Andrei Yahorau. To return to the old scheme, Russia is not ready, but what will be the new model of relations is not clear, says the analyst.

In the opinion of Catherine Matinoe, Russia in any case wants to see Belarus a loyal partner and neighbor: “But what exactly means to achieve it, Moscow will be solved ad hoc (for a special occasion. – Ed.). If you fail to press it, will have to pay for loyalty.”

Союзное государство Беларуси и России: будущее туманно

Союзное государство Беларуси и России: будущее туманно

Союзное государство Беларуси и России: будущее туманно

Союзное государство Беларуси и России: будущее туманно

Союзное государство Беларуси и России: будущее туманно

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