Eurasian Economic Commission: the Ball Starts Rolling
In January 2012 the Eurasian Economic Commission started functioning
In January 2012 the Eurasian Economic Commission
Equal Rights and Opportunities
A new universal regulating body of the Customs Union (CU) and the Single Economic Space (SES) is a unique institution on the post-soviet area. The main purpose of the Eurasian Economic Commission that succeeded the Customs Union Commission is to ensure CU and SES proper functioning and development. It will become a working decision-making body affecting key economic areas of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. A high-level meeting held on 19 December 2011 where the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia laid down the foundation and shaped the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) was perhaps one of the most important steps towards extending customs integration of the three countries. At the same time, transition from the CU Commission to the EEC will be gradual in order to ensure smooth succession and efficient operation of the new body.
The first sessions of the EEC were held through January and February in Moscow. It goes without saying that no breakthrough decisions were made as the sessions, like any initial meetings, were mostly focused on the speedy formation and launch of the Eurasian Economic Commission.
The EEC Council elected its first chairman at the first meeting. According to the members of the Council, Belarus should take the lead and Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Rumas was elected chairman. His main tasks are related to administrative issues of the Council such as agenda and formalization of decision-making. The chairman will be elected on a rotating basis every year.
The members of the Board were also elected. The Board is headed by Viktor Christenko. Tatyana Valovaya will be responsible for main integration areas and macroeconomics, Timur Suleimenov is tasked with economics and financial policy, Sergei Sidorsky will be responsible for industry and agriculture, Andrei Slepnev for trade. Issues of technical regulation are assigned to Valery Koreshkov, customs cooperation – Vladimir Goshin, energy and infrastructure – Daniyal Akhmetov, competition and antimonopoly regulation – Nurlan Aldabergenov.
All the members of the Board are highly qualified which reflects the attitude of the SES member states towards it as well as the scope of the tasks it will be performing.
Yet this is by far not the whole list of the EEC staff. It was decided to set up 23 departments reporting to the Board with a total of 600 staff. The structure of the departments has already been approved and qualification requirements for the future personnel have been determined. Therefore, there is a lot of work to be done. The departments have to be fully staffed by 1 July 2012, and then the transition from the Customs Union Commission to the EEC will be complete.
According to the decision of the presidents, nationals of the three countries must be represented in every staffing category. The Belarusians will account for 6% of the total number of employees of the EEC departments, nationals of Kazakhstan will account for 10% and the rest 84% will be Russians.
Belarus has launched a selection process of prospective candidates for the positions of the EEC international public servants. Qualified individuals meeting the requirements of this international body are invited to take part in the selection process.
On the whole in the near future the Board will have to work hard. The national governments will delegate a number of their responsibilities to this body. By 2017 the Board will take up more than a hundred of national duties. It will convene every week.
A two-level structure of the Commission will ensure evolutionary development of this agency. On the one hand, the Council will preserve the current format with three vice-premiers; on the other hand, it will have a new full-time professional board. This is an important step towards formation of a professional management body of the Eurasian integration alliance.
An important feature of the Eurasian Economic Commission is its status as the national regulatory body. All the decisions will be taken by the Board and will be binding for all the three countries.
All the debates will be conducted at the level of the Board. If its members fail to find a consensus, the issue will be submitted for consideration of the vice-premiers. If they fail to agree, the heads of state will have to decide, specified Sergei Sidorsky, board member (minister) responsible for industry and agriculture.
Therefore, an opportunity to take sensitive issues to a higher level up to the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council of the heads of state is provided.
WTO is Next
Apart from forming the unified market which self-efficiency makes it resistant to the outside economic fluctuations, each country will continue developing trade-economic cooperation with other countries and supranational institutions.
In particular, after Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) it is important that the three states take concerted decisions to protect their mutual interests in this international organization.
According to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, accession of all the Customs Union members to the WTO will strengthen the Eurasian union and improve its international standing. Therefore, both Belarus and Kazakhstan count on Russia’s support in this process. The Russian Federation will do its best to facilitate accession of its partners to the World Trade Organization. This intent is reflected in various memoranda of understanding related to the WTO accession signed by each SES member state.
Thus, in the memorandum signed on 19 December 2011 by Alexander Lukashenko and Dmitry Medvedev the sides agreed that Russia will help dismantle political obstacles to launching the negotiation process between Belarus and the WTO.
In addition to that, Russia will offer Belarus consultation and expert support in preparation of documents throughout the WTO entry negotiation process and will consider the possibility of providing additional technical assistance if necessary.
It was agreed that after the official accession to the World Trade Organization Russia will not make any new demands in the context of bilateral or multilateral negotiations of Belarus’ accession to the WTO. The parties will agree on their position and settle any disputes beforehand based on the mechanisms and interests of the integration formations they are part of.
Belarus and Russia also confirmed the preferential nature of their trade-economic relations by noting the priority of ensuring favorable environment of cooperation within joint integration formations. The countries also emphasized their commitment to boosting their presence in the international market by speeding up accession of all the Customs Union member states to the WTO.
“The parties believe it inadmissible to allow deterioration of mutual trade conditions due to the WTO accession. In this respect after the WTO accession their trade and economic relations will continue to be governed by the bilateral and multilateral international treaties and documents ensuring preferential nature of the mutual trade in goods and services, including within the Union State, Customs Union, Single Economic Space and Commonwealth of Independent States,” the memorandum says.
It also stipulates that the parties will interact with WTO member states in order to ensure that the tariff obligations of Belarus towards the WTO are commeasur- able with the harmonized RussianKazakhstani obligations.
Thus, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia have confirmed their commitment to advance concerted accession of all the SES member states to the WTO.
Open to Everyone
The three countries are ready to develop the closest cooperation with their EURASEC partners as well as other countries of the post Soviet area. Other countries are also likely to accede to the Eurasian union. It looks like this ambitious project will come true.
Kyrgyz officials have repeatedly voiced their intention to join the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space. “We believe that our country can definitely become a member of the Customs Union,” said Omurbek Babanov, Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan.
Ukraine also started talking about the opportunity of joining the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. “We want to study this issue today and we could gradually move forward according to the 3+1 formula. For instance, out of 120 agreements we could first sign those beneficial for the CU member states and Ukraine. Then we could continue negotiating step by step,” Ukraine’s Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said.
Moldova’s public support of the idea of joining the Customs Union has been growing, too. According to the Vox Populi 2012 poll conducted by the Association of Sociologists and Demographers of Moldova, about 40% of respondents are in favor of Moldova’s accession to the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.
The union of the three countries is attractive for other states and this proves its effectiveness.
The Single Economic Space opens a new chapter in cooperation among Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. This stage of integration shows a high level of trust of these three states towards each other.
For Belarus, close and productive integration with neighbors has always been a natural path of development.
On 19 December 2011 Presidents
of Belarus, Kazakhstan and
Russia Alexander Lukashenko,
Nursultan Nazarbayev and Dmitry Medvedev
launched the Eurasian Economic
Commission and the Single Economic