Belarus set to use EEU mechanisms to resolve disputes with Russia
Belarus and Russia seem unable to resolve the bilateral dispute and are prompted to use mediation of the EEU agencies. The oil and gas dispute is likely to be resolved within the framework of this organisation. If this happens, Belarus will start to benefit from participating in the EEU.
Last week, the EEU agencies joined the conflict between Belarusian food producers and the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision. In addition, the EEU Court confirmed the validity of Russian claims to Belarus in the case of equipment transit from Kaliningrad.
On February 22nd, the Eurasian Economic Commission ministers (the EEC is the executive body of the EEU) for industry and agro-industrial complex Valery Koreshkov and Sergei Sidorsky responded to the Federal Service for Veterinarian and Vegetation Sanitary Supervision (Rosselkhoznadzor) claims. In particular, they stated that at that moment the EEU had no approved methodology to determine the milk powder concentration, neither on the EEU, nor on the national level, including Russia. The Rosselkhoznadzor promotes methodology, which was developed by a commercial enterprise and was not approved by any national or supranational authority. The EEC stated that the Rosselkhoznadzor improperly used the said methodology, and therefore, the ban on Belarusian dairy products was unjustified.
Earlier, Sergey Sidorsky proposed to establish the Eurasian Association of Milk Producers in order to coordinate the interests of national producers on the EEU market. By establishing different industry associations, the competition between companies could actually be reduced and help to divide the market.
Last week, the parties somewhat progressed in resolving the oil and gas dispute, also through cooperating within the EEU. According to statements by Energy Minister Potupchik and Vice Prime Minister Semashko, the dispute would be resolved through creating a common electricity market by 2019 and a common gas market by 2025, which, according to Belarus, required coordination of the gas price in Russia and Belarus. Perhaps, Russia did agree to apply some indices when pricing gas for Belarus, but in any case, Belarus declared a willingness to abandon cross subsidies for energy tariffs on the domestic market.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.