Belarus aims to make ‘package deals’ when concluding agreements within the EEU
On March 1st, 2019, at the government meeting, Lukashenka said that inequality retained within the EEU and proposed resolving existing contradictions by conditioning Belarus’ participation when introducing new rules. Previously, Belarus also attempted to make ‘package deals’, however, she had fewer opportunities than Russia to ensure Russia’s compliance with her commitments.
On March 5th, 2019, President Lukashenka held a government meeting, where he urged the government to “resume the package approach when removing barriers and restrictions”. The “package” approach means that Belarus signs agreements within the EEU in exchange for Russia’s commitments in areas of critical importance for Belarus.
Lukashenka expressed his disappointment with the EEU not only during this meeting but also during the major interview on March 1st, 2019. This is a common disappointment among the Belarusian leadership (see, for example, Myasnikovich and Lyashenko).
Indeed, Russia has postponed the fulfilment of her promises to Belarus when creating the EEU, in particular, on equal energy tariffs. In addition, Russian business has successfully lobbied for state subsidies and profitable product standards. Hence, Belarus’ claims seem only fair. However, Belarus does not have enough means to make Russia stop creating advantages for Russian business, while Russia has levers to limit Belarus’ claims.
Difficulties that Belarusian goods encounter when competing on the EEU markets could have been somewhat resolved if Belarusian officials and business unions had both, the motivation and the ability to lobby Belarusian business’ interests at the stage of preparing regulatory documents. However, that would not remove the major obstacle – unjustified high administrative and social costs of doing business in Belarus, that is, excessive state control, high barriers for business, taxes, and employment requirements at public enterprises.