Press Conferences

15 august, 2011 18:07

Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Myasnikovich hold a joint news conference following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State

Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Myasnikovich hold a joint news conference following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State
“The Common Economic Space should be operational starting on January 1, 2012, resulting in a higher level of integration between Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. I am confident that this substantial and far-reaching project will be implemented successfully.”
Vladimir Putin
At a joint news conference with Mikhail Myasnikovich following a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State


Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, colleagues,

Today we held the second meeting this year of the Council of Ministers of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. We discussed a wide range of issues and exchanged opinions on the current economic situation in the world and in our countries. In all, there were over 15 different topics on the agenda.

During the meeting, we heard a report on the implementation of the Union State’s budget during the first six months of 2011. Based on this, we focused on improving the efficiency of the utilisation of shared resources, and on better prioritising our budgetary policies.

For reference, I can say that up to 40% of the Union State’s budget resources are allocated towards basic research and supporting science and technology. In this regard, we have reviewed a number of innovative jointly implemented programmes in some cutting-edge areas, including agribusiness, information protection and the development of prospective semiconductor structures and materials.   

We believe that these types of projects should serve as the foundation for the development of a single science and technology space of the Union State. I mentioned earlier and can now confirm that our bilateral trade has increased by 40% or by about $18 billion. If we can maintain this pace, then we will certainly exceed the pre-crisis trade level of 2008 by the end of the year.

We also discussed our need to diversify our relations, such as through promoting small and medium-sized businesses. Of course, we also discussed the launching of the Common Economic Space on January 1, 2012, which will result in a higher level of integration between Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan. I am confident that this substantial and far-reaching project will be implemented successfully.

As usually happens during our meetings, we focused a lot of attention on matters concerning energy cooperation, specifically issues of oil and gas. Allow me to inform you that starting in 2012, Russia will use a so-called integrative decrease adjustment for calculating the price of gas supplies to Belarus. The exact adjustment will be determined based on an agreement between the companies of the two countries. We proceed from the necessity of equal competition for all in our economic integration. We cannot do it all in one giant step but this is quite an attainable goal for gradual efforts, efforts in which the energy industry is prominent. I repeat that it is up to commercial negotiators to set the end indices. Anyway, we have agreed on the general approach, and we expect the process to continue with Gazprom acquiring another block of Beltransgaz shares, of which it presently possesses a half. I would like to thank you all for today’s work. Thank you.

Mikhail Myasnikovich: Thank you. Mr Putin, ladies and gentlemen, we were quick and efficient enough today with the meeting of the Union State Council of Ministers, which shows that we share opinions on many themes and have every chance to address the few problems.

Mr Putin, I would like to thank you personally for our friendly and constructive dialogue during the meeting and on matters that we usually discuss in the bilateral format. It is wonderful that our partnership and joint decisions are progressive, just as our programmes for scientific and technical cooperation are. We share like approaches to them. What matters most is that these programmes are not about far-fetched theoretical research but practical economy. They are materialising in practical industrial projects. We have given the start to the joint development of microelectronics today to provide a sound basis for the manufacture of medical equipment, optical and radio-electronics, and special-purpose items. The same is true for the information protection programme for biometric technology and many other fields.

We’ll try that within the three countries – I mean Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan – these project should be also implemented. We can’t say we have done enough on them yet. However, we came to a relevant agreement, and Mr Putin proposed in the meeting establishing a working group that would share the best achievements of our bilateral relations with the three countries. Business partnerships count for a lot and the benefits for companies whose interests these projects meet. We must shift from ordinary trade to an innovative high-tech partnership, that is, smoothly coordinated industrial cooperation. We should also build new industrial plants. We have made some progress in this latter field.

I agree with my Russian colleagues when they say that this progress is too slow. Still, there is some progress, and new plants continue to be added to the 2,000 Belarusian-based concerns with Russian capital participation. Just a few days ago Russia’s Hydromashservice purchased a controlling stake in the largest special pump manufacturer in the CIS. The MAZ-KamAZ Autoworks, microelectronics projects and others are no less essential for our bilateral relations.

We agreed to reach an accord within next month on oil and gas purchases in 2012. Mr Putin, you gave us a gift for which we are grateful when you told us about future pricing policies and what matters even more, about the calculation of the integrative adjustment. It will be below 1, which is most important to us. The term "integrative adjustment" is helpful and very meaningful, too.

We also discussed problems of trade with third-party countries, mainly within the Customs Union and the CIS. No doubt, trade with the West was also on the agenda. We are the last people to wage trade wars but we will stand up for our mutual interests. Mr Putin, thank you for your attention to our bilateral partnership. I also thank the Permanent Committee and its experts for the documents used in the today’s meeting of the Council of Ministers. They were prepared well enough to make our discussion short and productive. Thank you.

Remark: Ladies and gentlemen, anyone is welcome to ask a question.

Question: My name is Ksenia Golovanova, Interfax correspondent. Mr Putin, we hear about the Union State less now that the three countries’ integration is developing apace. Do you think the Union format of Russian-Belarusian integration might recede into the background someday? Or is it possible that the Union State will no longer be relevant? Thank you.

Vladimir Putin: We have discussed this matter more than once, and I spoke on it in general terms. We think that the difference in integration pace is reasonable. The Union State outstrips the Customs Union and the future Common Economic Space in some fields because some issues – for instance, social problems and welfare guarantees – are outside their responsibilities. The problems of healthcare and some others are addressed within the Union State, not the Customs Union, because such organisations do not tackle these things jointly. In addition, we have arranged some matters in the Union State to eventually facilitate our decisions in the Customs Union and in the Common Economic Space, so they are mutually complementary.

Remark: Belarusian National Television Channel One has the floor.

Question: Good afternoon. My name is Pavel Tukhto. I represent Channel One. My question concerns the sanctions introduced by the European Union last week against Belarusian businesses. The United States has also introduced sanctions against four Belarusian companies. Mr Myasnikovich, will Belarus do anything about this? Will it open consultations with Russia to avoid the negative impact of these sanctions? Mr Putin, what is Russia’s stance on them? Do you see what support the Belarusian economy should get in this situation? Thank you.

Mikhail Myasnikovich: The sanctions are certainly very hard on our national economy because they hit our largest industrial companies. We will have to reconsider our sales markets and many other factors – particularly the development of other economic sectors that could compensate for the losses. We have discussed the problem. The sanctions concern competitive products and, though the matter is very sensitive, we should not despair. I think it’s a shame for politicians to pressure businesses after they exhaust their political means of influence. Few things might be worse than that, I think.

Vladimir Putin: I am firmly convinced that economic sanctions never attain their goal. On the contrary, they have just the opposite effect. As everyone knows, Belarus is going through hard times, partly due to the aftermath of the global financial and economic downturn, which we should not overlook. However, I never doubt that Belarus will cope.

I don’t think it’s worthwhile for Russia to respond hastily to other countries’ moves. This is not usually our approach. However, what we are doing to promote integration will certainly help the Belarusian economy, particularly due to new terms introduced in the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, which promise to boost Belarusian exports to Russia and Kazakhstan.

As for our attitude to Belarus in general, you know that I have just announced that we are willing to introduce the so-called integrative adjustment – that is, decrease adjustment for energy. This is direct assistance and support, though it isn't a gift. This adjustment improves Russian businesses' position in the Belarusian market, so they are willing to meet their Belarusian partners halfway. This position has been coordinated at the political level. The Russian government and president support it. I spoke about it with President Medvedev this morning, and we have come to terms on it. So I express a position shared by the entire Russian leadership.