30 january 2009

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held talks with his Belarusian counterpart Sergei Sidorsky

The two Prime Ministers discussed preparations for the upcoming State Council meeting, including current issues of the Union State development, its immediate prospects and analysis of earlier achievements.

Transcript of the start of the meeting: 

Vladimir Putin: Good morning, colleagues. Mr Sidorsky, welcome to Moscow.

Our meeting today is taking place before the State Council meeting. We have agreed with Mr Sidorsky to discuss current issues of the Russia-Belarus Union State. We'll look at problems, talk about immediate prospects and analyse our earlier achievements as part of our preparations for the State Council.

This is a truly "working" meeting as we are about to discuss routine issues. Let's get down to business. I am happy to see you all here. Welcome. Let's begin.

Please, go ahead, Mr Sidorsky.

Sergei Sidorsky: Mr Putin, colleagues,

I would like to thank you for this opportunity to meet here in Moscow despite the tight schedules.

Yes, we have agreed earlier to meet on January 30 to discuss topical issues in a systemic way at a Union Government meeting.

We have been given a number of important issues to handle, and as your deputy in the Union Government, I have promised to take part of the load off you.

I met with several cabinet ministers after arriving in Moscow yesterday, including Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev, Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin and First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov. I have also met with your Economics Minister in Minsk. Thank you for the opportunity to meet them.

Mainly, I was trying to clarify as many of the current issues as possible, so that I could come up with some solutions to be discussed with you today.

I must report that the joint action plan to overcome the repercussions of the global financial crisis for the Russian and Belarusian economies has been finalised as per your directive in November 2008.

Also, there is a series of issues we're going to bring up today to consider at this restricted meeting. I think we are close to taking a weighted decision and signing a relevant document.

It is important that ministry boards are now working systematically, and I appreciate your efforts here. Almost every Russian ministry has had contacts with a relevant Belarusian ministry in Moscow or Minsk in the past six months, to discuss a range of issues that require prompt decision-making amid the financial crisis.

Vladimir Putin: It was your proposal that ministry contacts should be intensified. I am glad it is being materialised.

Sergei Sidorsky: Thank you. This especially concerns the instruction we gave to work towards creating a common customs territory, removing the last customs restrictions between our countries and establishing a common outer border by January 1, 2010. We have held meetings with the Customs Committee, the Transport Ministry, and will meet today with Alexei Gordeyev [Agriculture minister] regarding the customs and border issues.

In fact, we are ready to present a finalised action plan to the Union Government. [First Deputy Prime Minister] Igor Shuvalov has made a valuable contribution. We are also ready to look today at the documents we have drawn and coordinated and present them to the Union Government for consideration.

Vladimir Putin: Are you talking about bilateral issues or the Customs Union format?

Igor Shuvalov: We are working faster within the Customs Union than in the bilateral format.

Vladimir Putin: It would certainly be good to make coordinated decisions between the three countries - Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.

Igor Shuvalov: That's what we are doing. However, we have more issues coordinated with Belarus than between the three countries.

Sergei Sidorsky: We need to discuss a series of issues in the fuel and energy sector. In fact we have settled almost everything there. The supply/demand balance will be proposed for discussion at the Union Government meeting. Importantly, we are clear on mutual supplies, our markets' needs, and the extent of meeting the demand for products to be supplied to Russia.

Belarus has brought up a series of current issues to be discussed at the Union Government meeting later in the day. I would like to thank again all those who have contributed to this work. We'll work very hard today to find solutions to these issues.