Russia will pay Belarus for ratifying Eurasian Economic Union treaty
Minsk has sustained its position and has ratified the Eurasian Economic Union founding treaty only after receiving assurance from Russia that she will enable Belarus to keep revenues from export duties and replenish Belarus’ oil refineries with Russian oil in 2015. In addition, the Belarusian government is attempting to ensure it has other sources of income in case Russia reduces her support. The authorities hope to reduce cooperation with the Kremlin within the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) (just as they have done within the CIS and other post-Soviet integration projects) when the EEU loses its attractiveness in terms of gains and benefits
Andrei Kobiakov, Head of the Presidential Administration, said that President Lukashenko signed the EEU treaty ratification law.
The Belarusian Parliament ratified the EEU treaty on October 9th, 2014. President Lukashenko signed the ratification law on the same day. The Parliaments of Kazakhstan and Russia have already ratified the treaty without any reservations.
The Belarusian Parliament has ratified the EEU treaty with a reservation, which, in fact, calls into question Belarus’ participation in the EEU if the Kremlin reduces its support to the Belarusian economy. “The Republic of Belarus states that it will perform its obligations under the Agreement in good faith and will implement other measures as required, provided that trilateral or bilateral agreements are reached on removing barriers, limitations and exclusions when trading some goods and providing some services, such as energy products, products of assembly plants, road carriage liberalisation and other sensitive issues”.
In exchange for ratifying the EEU treaty, Belarus has managed to win some benefits from the Kremlin, including an energy agreement for 2015 which allows Belarus to keep around USD 3.3 billion from export duties on oil products processed from Russian oil and receiving 23 million tons of Russian oil to fully fill Belarus’ refineries. In addition, Belarus has gained unlimited access to the Russian market to sell Geely, Chinese cars assembled in Belarus, and preserved the “food off-shore”.
Interestingly, the Kremlin is planning a ‘grand tax manoeuvre’ in the oil industry, mainly to neutralise Belarus’ claims to remove all limitations and exceptions within the EEU. According to Sergei Rumas, a member of the Ministers’ Council Presidium, such limitation and exceptions concern nine items, which make up about one-third of the trade between the two countries, and are sensitive for both Russia and Belarus.
The agreement between Minsk and Moscow will only be valid until late 2015, so after the presidential elections in 2015 Russia may reduce her support to the Belarusian economy once again. Hence, Belarus attempted to minimise her risk vis-a-vis the Kremlin and ratified the EEU treaty with a reservation that “the said agreements must include provisions that any deterioration of the terms and conditions [for removing barriers, limitations and exclusions] are not allowed in the future periods, until such limitations and exceptions will have been fully eliminated within the Eurasian Economic Union”.
President Lukashenko is not interested in having tensions in Russo-Belarusian relations ahead of the 2015 presidential campaign, as the Kremlin could put severe pressure on the Belarusian leadership, both economically and in the media. In 2010, the Russian media unleashed a media war against President Lukashenko, forcing him to make concessions when signing the Customs Union treaty.
The Belarusian government will continue to participate in the Kremlin’s integration projects. but only as long as it is receiving financial support. If the Kremlin cuts subsidies to the Belarusian economy and if the Russian market becomes less attractive for Belarusian producers, Belarus’ authorities would attempt to derail the integration process, forcing the Kremlin to cooperate by the example of the Union State of Belarus and Russia or the CIS.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.