15 march 2011

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk

At the meeting, Vladimir Putin raised the issue of Russian-Belarusian trade and economic relations, in addition to other fields of successful cooperation. The two leaders then discussed the impact of recent world crises, particularly in Japan.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Alexander Lukashenko: Before we get down to business, Mr Putin, allow me to say that it's a truly personal pleasure for me to welcome you to Belarus today. Thank you for coming. We've got plenty of work to do: there are two major meetings scheduled related to our countries' allied relations and the Common Economic Space. These two projects, as the journalists call them, are undoubtedly important for our people, and, of course, for our governments' chief officials, which is why we are ready to do everything necessary to work through them. As you know, we have always treated such occasions very seriously, and we have everything ready to get down to work and do it promptly like back in the old days, as you remember. This occasion is very important, indeed.

It is important for us, Mr Putin, first and foremost to discuss the Common Economic Space, since both Belarus and Russia have been counting on this significant union and on the great boon that it represents.

As for our economic relations, we have had no problems either last year or this year. I have been monitoring the press, and the journalists don't seem to understand... they don't realise that in the middle of last year, we agreed to settle all our issues and start the following year without any problems. And, essentially, that's what we did. Of course, both the Russian and Belarusian economies are facing their own difficulties.

We are aware of what is going in the world – it couldn't be otherwise. And the problems that affect the Russian and Belarusian economies are primarily the result of external influences. I will describe the problems that have been arising in Belarus in connection with these influences. If we monitored the situation in Russia, we would see the same problems. But they are not insurmountable, and we can and must cope with them. We are doing our best to eliminate them. That's why there is a wide range of other issues that I would like to discuss with you personally, and I believe that we will find the time today to do so.

Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much, Mr Lukashenko.

First and foremost, I would like to mention that the previous year was successful in terms of strengthening Russian-Belarusian economic ties. Our trade grew by 19% to $28.5 billion, and, on the whole, it has been developing successfully.

As for the integration process, we are aware that you have been a consistent supporter of integration within the post-Soviet space. This is evidenced by the fact that we have promptly prepared and adopted a number of conceptual documents on integration between Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan as part of the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. I consider these decisions very important, and they will certainly promote the economy's stabilisation and the resolution of complicated social and economic issues, especially in the context of ongoing economic problems in many European countries and in many of the world's leading economies.

We are now faced with another crisis, which is currently occurring in Japan. There will be an inevitable affect on the international economy. Even the experts are still unsure exactly what that affect might be, but its impact will surely be felt. We discussed issues of nuclear power engineering this morning. I invited a lot of experts to discuss our cooperation in this field. I am referring to plans for constructing nuclear power plants and our cooperation with Belarus in general. We will discuss it thoroughly. But I can assure you that the projects we are discussing and about to implement are of the latest generation and that their security level is much higher than the Japanese plants, despite the fact that Belarus is not situated near the same sort of seismic area. The Japanese reactors were made in the US 40 years ago. And we are talking about brand new technology. We will discuss it thoroughly at the government level, and I will tell you everything in detail.

In general, I believe that the situation in Russian-Belarusian economic relations and many other areas of cooperation is developing well. I am very glad to have the opportunity to meet with all of you, our Belarusian and Kazakh colleagues, and talk about what we have done as we also make plans for the near future.