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.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.