Minsk not rushing to ratify Eurasian Economic Union treaty
Inasmuch as the Belarusian authorities anticipate strengthening their positions on the international arena, they will deliberately put off the ratification of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) founding treaty. Due to the Kremlin’s actions in relation to Ukraine and its aggressive rhetoric (the so-called “Russian world” ideology), the Kazakh and Belarusian leaders want to make sure they are playing safe. Amid increasing pressure from the West on Russia, Minsk and Astana seek to limit Eurasian integration to economic cooperation only by blocking the expansion of the political agenda.
The Russia’s State Duma has promised to speed up ratification of the EAEC Treaty, expecting that Astana and Minsk will do the same.
On May 29th in Astana, the presidents of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan signed the Eurasian Economic Union founding treaty, which should take effect on January 1st, 2015. Russia insists on all parties ratifying the EEU founding treaty “simultaneously, if possible”.
Currently, only Russia has submitted the ratification bill to the Parliament (in early September). However, there are no doubts that Belarus and Kazakhstan will complete all required procedures before the year-end.
It should be noted that the EEU envisages economic integration only, which is an achievement for Astana and Minsk as the Kremlin also wants closer political integration. The political component was entirely crossed out from the final draft of the Treaty thanks to efforts by Kazakh and Belarusian negotiators. Originally, the treaty also included "non-economic" clauses relating to border control and safety, common citizenship, foreign policy, defence and security, as well as health, education, science and culture.
The parties agreed to develop cooperation in “non-economic” spheres within other post-Soviet integration structures or bilaterally. For example, Secretary of the Belarus-Russia Union State Rapota proposed to introduce a common visa within the Union State (similar to the Schengen visa in the EU). However, Belarus was not keen on this initiative. Belarus’ Foreign Ministry Spokesman Mironchik said that “currently there are no negotiations about this issue”.
Meanwhile, escalating tension in Russo-Ukrainian relations and the Kremlin’s aggressive rhetoric about"protecting the Russian world" have prompted Belarus and Kazakhstan to react. For example, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said that should the Kazakh’s national interests be threatened, Kazakhstan would leave the Eurasian Union.
Minsk seeks to strengthen its international position and to improve relations with the West due to its neutral position in the Russo-Ukrainian crisis and serving as a platform for the settlement negotiations. In addition, Belarus seeks to avoid undue attention to her participation in the EEU amid increasing sanctions pressure from the West on Russia.
Belarus is unlikely to submit the EEU treaty ratification bill to Parliament before late autumn.
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.