Minsk is concerned about Moscow's unilateral revision of relations with EEU partners
Due to enhanced competition on the narrowing Eurasian market, Moscow is unilaterally revising relations with Minsk. Minsk is attempting to defend its interests using contacts in Russian regions and through EEU mechanisms. Russia is likely to seek compensation for its financial and economic losses by reducing benefits for her partners in the Eurasian integration, including Belarus, regardless of bilateral agreements within the Union State framework and multilateral agreements within the EEU.
The Belarusian State Standardization Committee’s press service announced that the non-acceptance by the Russian Federal Customs Service of the certificates and declarations from the EEU member states required a prompt decision.
Russia is reluctant to enable her EEU partners to gain access to the shrinking Russian market. Quite the opposite, protectionism and defending own business interests have enhanced among the EEU partners.
Despite the fact that the oil and gas dispute between Belarus and Russia has been resolved and Minsk signed the EEU Customs Code, the new tension is rising in Russo-Belarusian bilateral relations related to the refusal of the Russian FCS to recognise certificates and declarations from other EEU states, including Belarus. In addition, tension over foodstuffs supply between Minsk and Moscow remains high. Rosselkhoznadzor has not lifted restrictions on the some foodstuffs supply from Belarus and carried on with the information campaign in the Russian media. For instance, Russian Izvestia newspaper recently wrote about the possible re-export by Belarus of large volumes of Turkish tomatoes. Due to Belarus’ refusal to privatise MAZ in favour of Russian KAMAZ, Belarusian manufacturers continue to lose the Russian market.
The Belarusian president has used his contacts in the Russian regions to channel his claims vis-à-vis the Kremlin. Apparently, he has realised that relations with the Kremlin based on the ‘brotherly’ integration rhetoric have ended. While meeting with Rostov region Governor Golubev, President Lukashenka urged to create conditions for fair competition between Belarusian and Russian partners.
Overall, regardless of the formal rapprochement among the EEU states, there are some contradictory trends in the economic relations among them and enhanced disintegration processes.
Amid budgetary cuts on social protection, the Belarusian public sector is experiencing a management crisis and a balance shift in the state resource redistribution system. The authorities are forced to revise their most unpopular decisions during the implementation due to the pressure from affected social groups. The state is unlikely to oppose to some civil society and opposition organisations in strengthening their role in society in order to retain touch with the population and to be able to respond to the most harsh criticism of state initiatives.
The Architecture and Construction Ministry has acknowledged that the decree No 585 on assistance to large and young families in building and buying housing was prematurely rescinded.
The authorities are often forced to revise their decisions on curtailing social assistance to different social groups during their implementation, without preliminary impact assessment and feedback from the population, so as they lead to the growth in social tension. Due to the centralised decision making, languishing state resources and the lack of public debate as a balancing instrument in issues related to social protection, the state administration is losing control of the population.
Perhaps, the compensatory mechanisms of the state apparatus lack the time to adjust to dwindling state resources for supporting the existing social model, even in a reduced form. The authorities have completely or partially paralysed operations of independent public institutions and representative bodies, through which they could monitor public moods and receive feedback from the population, such as local councils, the parliament, political parties and NGOs. Last year, under the pressure of the authorities, the last independent institute for measuring public sentiment, IISEPS, suspended operations.
President Lukashenka’s self-removal from the decision-making on current socio-economic issues, also could have affected the state apparatus’ operations. The president has always been very sensitive about adopting unpopular decisions which could lower his popular support, hence demanded a careful preliminary assessment of such decisions. However, recently, especially after the introduction of the tax on social dependants, the president has mainly focused on the foreign policy agenda.
Hence, a lacuna has formed in the state decision-making after the president reduced participation in the current socio-economic policy formation, which leads to an increase in manifestations of dysfunction in the public administration.