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MP Varanetski on possible outcome of Belarus-Russia intergation

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Valer Varanetski, photo Euroradio

Perhaps the only real result of the talks between Alyaksandr Lukashenka and Vladimir Putin is an agreement on the establishment of a working group to "deepen the integration of Belarus and Russia within the framework of the Union State." On the Belarusian side, the group is headed by Economy Minister Dzmitry Krutoy and involves 30 people. Among them is the Deputy and Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, Valer Varanetsky.

Euroradio: On the one hand, the working group will decide on the issue of tax maneuver compensation, and on the other, discuss the deepening of integration. What questions will the group deal with first?

Valer Varanetsky: The main goal is to develop proposals for the development of Belarusian-Russian integration and discuss cooperation with Russian colleagues on Russian-Belarusian relations. But in order to develop proposals and submit them to the government, it is necessary to clearly analyze what we have, at what stage in the sphere of economic relations we are. First, you need to make an audit of the branches in terms of economic relations, and then work out ways for more effective interaction.

It should be understood that the integration policy is aimed at creating favorable conditions for economic cooperation between business entities. This is most important, but not the goal in itself. It is about increasing the economic efficiency of national economies, economic growth in the interests of countries and peoples. From this point of view, we need to look at what is happening in our relations with Russia.

Integration is an objective process, and it is initially determined by the interests of independent enterprises and their income. It is more profitable for enterprises to have interrelations where they get more income. But both Russian and Belarusian enterprises are concentrating not only on one market -- they trade where it is profitable. And economic integration is developing in those areas where it is profitable. And where it is unprofitable, it is difficult to count on dynamic movement.

Euroradio: Alyaksandr Lukashenka says that the Russians didn’t say anything concrete and didn’t answer the question of what they mean by deepening integration ...

Valer Varanetsky: When we talk about economic integration, it is primarily the creation of favorable conditions for economic cooperation between enterprises. Naturally, under these conditions, we must see how market conditions are managed in countries, how fair competition is in the economies of Russia and Belarus. If not, then economic integration will be inhibited.

Alyaksandr Lukashenka was right in saying that when we made a decision to deepen the integrative interaction, we proceeded from the fact that conditions would improve. And in the end it turns out that it became worse? This is not clear to anyone. We need to look at the limitations that exist. I’m sure that if you remove general conversations, see what is happening in the economy, I think it will be a big plus. But this must be done both in Russia and in Belarus. Of course, it is about equal economic conditions, fair competition, appropriate pricing, and so on. I think the Russian side will deal with this, too. There are educated economists there. Today we are talking about economic relations, the creation of favorable conditions for economic cooperation.

Euroradio: You are constantly highlighting the economic aspect. Is there a political aspect to the question of deepening integration? The single head of the Union State, the parliament ... Or is it not interesting for us today?

Valer Varanetsky: The treaty was once signed on the creation of the Union State. Therefore, when they use the term "Union State", we you need to answer the question, if it was created or not? You cannot run too far ahead. The house is built from the basement. A common market, customs space, a single economic space are formed to provide for general regulation, and so on. There is the experience of the European Union. If the European Union tried to get ahead and create something that was not yet prepared, the European communities would be in a serious crisis. We now need to create normal conditions for the economy, and then life will show.

In fact, Russia is interested (it is important for it) to interact with the European Union and develop economic ties. And so is Belarus, we live in the same space. Perhaps tomorrow Russia will say that it will deepen integration ties with the European Union and create a single European economic space. And Belarus will be part of this space. We should not think too far ahead, because the complicated processes are underway in Europe and in the post-Soviet space.

If we wanted to create institutions today, without preparing an economic basis, we would have failed. It would not be economic integration, but something completely different. The president clearly said that no unification was being discussed.

Euroradio: Considering your views on this, will you also defend sovereignty?

Valer Varanetsky: Yes, I am in favor of having an open economy and developing our economic ties, so that we integrate not only with Russia, because we have other European markets. The state should promote the development of connections that are of interest to our enterprises. We are faced with the task of removing trade restrictions not only with Russia, but also with Ukraine, the European Union. For Belarus it is extremely important to have an open economy. A country can have economic growth only by participating in global relations.

Euroradio: Despite the fact that we are both in the Union State and in the EEU, there are various obstacles to the entry of our enterprises into the Russian market. Don't you think that while we want equal rights in economic integration, it is more interesting for Russia to get political dividends with Belarus in the context of integration and not to move anywhere?

Valer Varanetsky: You touched on an important topic mentioning the Eurasian Economic Union. Creating a larger union was an initiative of the Russian, Kazakh and our presidents. In fact, this is good, because it creates new opportunities for enterprises. But then all this creates a new reality. Economic integration tends to expand. At first we had a “relationship of the two states” (union of Belarus and Russia), but then our leaders decided to create the Eurasian Economic Union, and did it. Today, both Russia and Belarus need to answer the question: does our priority lie with the further development of integration within the framework of the Eurasian Union, or are we returning to the “two states” format?

Euroradio: When it became known that the leaders of the two countries decided to establish a working group, analysts began to say that, obviously, Belarus does not want to deepen integration in the political sphere. But we cannot openly say this to the Russians, therefore we are slowing down the process in order to finally get compensation from Moscow for the tax maneuver. How do you see the end result of your work in this group?

Valer Varanetsky: If we are talking about integration, we mean economic integration. There is simply no other. If you are talking about politics, then state institutions cannot integrate. Again, look at the European Union: there is Germany, France, Italy, Poland ... Another thing is that supranational bodies are being created in order to optimally ensure and protect the work of the overall economy.

Today we are talking about economic cooperation. Therefore, if we talk about the political component, it means we are running ahead. We are two allied states, fraternal peoples, as has been repeatedly said. Naturally, we should cooperate and develop relations, but this does not mean that one brother should put the other in uncomfortable conditions. We are friends, so let's fraternally remove the restrictions that exist. Running too far ahead now would be wrong. Today we must be guided by the interests of our economies.

Euroradio: Is it known when the first meeting of the working group will be?

Valer Varanetsky: Consultations will take place among relevant departments, ministries, and experts. Approaches will be developed taking into account problems in the regions. There are customs, agricultural, trade issues. We are just entering this process. It is difficult for me to answer now, when a joint meeting of the Belarus-Russia group will take place. Both experts and leaders need to meet several times to achieve something.