Minsk to step up lobbying of its interests in Moscow
At the EEU Summit in Astana, Alexander Lukashenka has sharply criticisedthe Union for putting barriers in mutual trade and the lack of innovations. Overall, currently Belarus has fewer benefits from the EEU membership than her weight in the organisation. The Belarusian authorities are likely to attempt to use this lever for lobbying their economic interests and the interests of Belarusian producers.
Lukashenka’s speech at the Summit was out of tune with speeches by other heads of state. The Summit was celebrating the 2nd anniversary of the EEU and implied demonstration of successes achieved. Besides, due to domestic problems, Nazarbayev and Sargsian were in dire need of support by other heads of state and of demonstrating EEU’s bright prospects.
Meanwhile, Lukashenka not only outlined the obvious failures of the economic union: falling turnover, barriers in mutual trade, and additional obstacles due to the unilateral protective measures introduced by Russia against the West, Ukraine and Turkey; but also questioned the basic agreement of the Union - the EEU founding agreement. Only Kyrgyz President Atambaev supported Lukashenka’s speech. President Putin was forced to make excuses in response to Lukashenka’s allegations.
Lukashenka’s criticism was rather reasonable: none of the EEU member states had gained benefits from the Union to which it was entitled. The EEU has united unreformed economies in recession, which help keeping geriatric political systems afloat. In addition to internal reasons for economic slowdown in the EEU member states, by the time the EEU Summit started, two more important factors have emerged: the confrontation, especially in trade and finance, between Moscow and the west; and the slump in oil prices. As a result, in the past two years, Russia’s economy has fallen into a severe recession, respectively, mutual trade within the EEU has fallen sharply as compared with the period before its creation.
As for Belarus, not only it was unable to benefit from multiple bans on imports to Russia from the EU, Ukraine and Turkey, it has also lost its traditional positions on the Russian market to Chinese and other producers. In addition, the decline in the world prices on raw materials has offset the benefits from Russian oil and gas exports at special prices for allies.
Overall, Belarus is still gaining benefits from the EEU, however fewer than she should due to her weight in the organisation. Belarus is one the EEU’s three co-founders, and, in fact, is the western showcase for the Russian integration. Without Belarus, the EEU would lose the point for Moscow. Until Moscow has interest in this integration mechanism, Belarus has a strong lever to prompt the Kremlin to respect its interests.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.