Security and economy were the subjects of conversation between the presidents of the CSTO and the Eurasian Economic Union earlier this week in Moscow. The Collective Security Council adjusted the action plan in connection with the hostilities in the Middle East, the flow of refugees and the Russian plane downed by Turkey. This is a separate issue, a sensitive issue for the Kremlin, and Moscow would like to share its concern with the allies.
Another troublesome news is economy. Ukraine will join the free trade zone with the European Union from January 1, 2016. The consequences of this were also discussed by the heads of state during the EEU summit later on the same day.
The first year of the Eurasian Economic Union was not easy. The turnover has decreased, but it is necessary to somehow get out. This is what dominated the agenda. Alexei Martinyonok has more.
Exactly one week after the official visit to Moscow the Belarusian President's plane is back to the same airport. The summits in the Kremlin at the end of the year summarize the integration work in the post-Soviet space. This is the 29th meeting in the history of the CSTO.
The global events require rapid response. The presidents issued a joint statement aiming to fight terrorism. They advocated the formation of a unified coalition on the basis of the UN Charter and international law.
Sergei Kizima, Doctor of Political Sciences, Head of the Department of International Relations of the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the Belarus President:
Thus, on the basis of uniform rules of understanding who terrorists are, on the basis of the full consent of combating measures one could cope with this problem better. But to fully conquer it is unfortunately impossible. Like crime, terrorism will always exist. But, at least, one can tame terrorists so that they can't inflict such large-scale damage on the world community.
The incident with the Russian aircraft shot down by the Turkish air force was commented on by the President of Armenia - the country presiding in the CSTO. It is hard to imagine a more emotional speaker of the Turkish issue. Serzh Sargsyan seemed to leave out the bilateral problems and discreetly said that Ankara's step does not aim at the consolidation of efforts to combat terrorism.
Serzh Sargsyan, President of the Republic of Armenia:
As Russia's allies we express solidarity and support to Moscow's position on the incident. We had a very productive direct conversation in a narrow format reaffirming our readiness to consistently strengthen the power potential of the CSTO, to increase the counter-terrorism component, increase the readiness of the rapid response forces to effectively counter new threats and challenges.
Then the five presidents started another difficult conversation - in the format of the Eurasian Economic Union.
Belarusian chairmanship in the EEU was against the background of difficult events. The organization had to maneuver between the problems of various kinds for the entire year: from the fall in oil prices to trade ultimatums of individual participants. As a result the EEU posted serious losses: the bilateral trade has reduced by billions of dollars. Problem number 1 during the talks was the association agreement of Ukraine and the EU.
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
From 1 January next year, an agreement on free trade zone between Ukraine and the European Union comes into force. There is a serious situation with regard to the free trade zone of the CIS. It may be a situation when Ukrainian goods may be replaced by goods of the European Union in Ukraine and their products will rush into our territory. Or even more: we fear that the goods of the European Union, at a zero duty, will now be exported to Ukraine and if we do not protect ourselves, these goods will get into the CIS, in line with free trade zone agreements. You know, the president of Russia adopted a decree and plans to protect the Russian Federation from this situation as of January 1. But this pertains not only to Russia, but also to all our Eurasian Economic Union members (Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan). We made a decision: within six months we will introduce electronic declaration of goods that are moved within the Eurasian Economic Union. We already have such an example: the electronic declaration between Russia and Belarus. We can take this option or develop some new ones. We have agreed to work out these options in the coming six months.
Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation:
... commitments to bring our CIS customs standards into compliance with EU norms. I told them in Paris: "Are you adults or not? The three of us (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan) were arguing for years on the customs tariffs and you want us, just because Ukraine accedes to the European Union, to change all customs regulations in the CIS." It is unfair to demand this; it is impossible to do it in one year.
In general, the EEU must now continue to develop on the background of the devastating mutual sanctions of Russia and the West and the conflict in Ukraine.
There are also some points to be discussed. Most likely, at the next meeting to be held in Kazakhstan, as Nursultan Nazarbayev said here, he will assume the EEU presidency and we will discuss these matters.
At the same time, during Belarus' year of presidency a lot has been done. From January 1, 2016, the EEU members will begin to trade medicines and medical equipment under common rules. The first phase of the liberalization of motor transportation is going to enter into force. The single oil and energy markets are being formed.
Much attention is paid to the expansion of international relations. The EEU also needs to maintain a constructive and profitable dialogue with the EU.
In May, an agreement was signed on the establishment of a free trade zone with Vietnam. Similar negotiations are underway with Israel. Experts are discussing options with India, Egypt and Iran. The presidents favor close contacts with China to tie the idea of a new Silk Road with the capabilities of the EEU.
Viktor Khristenko, Chairman of the Board of the Eurasian Economic Commission:
We hope that in the first half of 2016 we will fully prepare and agree upon a road map for the pairing of these two large-scale projects. During 2016, it will be signed not only by us but also by our Chinese colleagues.
Summits in Moscow in late December have already become traditional. Here, the Presidents sum up the integration processes in the FSU territory. The number and composition of the leaders is always changing but the underlying idea remains the same: to confront any difficulties together.