November 27 – December 3, 2023
Belarus-Russia relations

The Hunger Games: 120 New Integration Challenges

The situation got worse
The Hunger Games: 120 New Integration Challenges

The governments of Russia and Belarus have prepared a resolution “On the draft Decree of the Supreme State Council of the Union State ‘On the Main Directions for Implementing the Provisions of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State for 2024–2026.'”

The document was discussed at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in Moscow. Lukashenka and Putin are expected to sign a new integration package for the next three years at a meeting of the Supreme State Council (SSC) of the Union State.

The new plan provides for the implementation of 120 tasks, which, in turn, are packaged into 11 sections. The implementation of these positions involves the further development of national payment systems, the launch of the unified electricity market, the improvement of transport communications and logistics, and the development of industrial cooperation, tourism, and investment cooperation, reports the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. The document also addresses issues of equal conditions and guarantees for companies, uniform rules of competition, and consumer protection.

Two years ago, in November 2021, at a meeting of the Supreme State Council, Lukashenka and Putin agreed on a document approving 28 union programs. According to the Belarusian side, they have been completed by 94%. Twenty-two out of 28 programs have been fully implemented; the rest are “in a high degree of readiness and should also be implemented by the end of 2023.”

All this data, perhaps, might be fake – and yet it is obvious that from a certain point, Minsk stopped insisting on issues of integration on a number of fundamental positions. This concerns measures that go beyond those common to the Eurasian Economic Union: harmonization affected the rates of indirect taxes – a supranational tax committee will soon be launched to monitor their payment (and, accordingly, an integrated platform for administering indirect taxes will be created).

Until 2021, we note that Minsk quite successfully played the integration card without significant consequences for itself. If we take into account the issues of price conditions for energy supplies, then institutional changes through the implementation of union programs fundamentally did not suit Lukashenka, whose power was determined by the principle “my country – and my rules.” All these harmonizations involve the redistribution and streamlining of economic power (including strengthening the institution of private property) according to Russian patterns without strict guarantees of stationary economic rent for the ruling group.

And yet, due to the lack of foreign policy and foreign economic alternatives, Minsk was forced to enter into integration at a new stage. In the winter of 2021, Lukashenka once again returned to the topic, saying that the parties still had to finalize 6-7 integration roadmaps out of 33 provided for in the agreements. By the time of the September meeting between Putin and Lukashenka in September 2021, there were 28 “maps,” they were renamed “union programs,” and their list finally appeared on the website of the government of the Russian Federation.

According to officials, by the end of this year, this entire integration package will be implemented. All this does not mean a quiet and problem-free implementation of the new 11 programs.

Minsk remains dissatisfied with the achievements in the creation of a single oil and gas market, and it is unlikely that, in the foreseeable future, the issue of energy price tags will be resolved as the Belarusian side would like. There are also disagreements, for example, in the area of producers’ access to government procurement and subsidies. The Russian side proposes to prepare a regulatory framework for introducing uniform requirements for the localization of manufactured products, while Minsk is counting on “completely barrier-free” access for manufacturers to government procurement and subsidies. So far, access to government procurement is actually limited by the problem of recognizing an electronic digital signature.

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Once a week, in coordination with a group of prominent Belarusian analysts, we provide analytical commentaries on the most topical and relevant issues, including the behind-the-scenes processes occurring in Belarus. These commentaries are available in Belarusian, Russian, and English.

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