30 january 2009

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin attended a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State

Vladimir Putin

Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State

"I am convinced that in order to minimise the negative impact of the world crisis on our economies we need effective joint actions. We should make full use of the benefits of integration, encourage mutual trade and strengthen cooperation in production."

Vladimir Putin's opening remarks: 

Esteemed Mr Prime Minister, colleagues,

I am glad to welcome you in Moscow at the first meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Union State this year.

I am sure it will be a useful and constructive meeting. In fact, we have already gone over the whole agenda during our restricted meeting. We will lay a good basis for the work of the Supreme State Council scheduled for February 3.

As is customary at the beginning of the year I suggest that we discuss our joint plans, outline the perspective of further interaction in the key areas of Russian-Belarusian cooperation, especially in the trade and economic spheres.

This sphere is acquiring a special relevance today. I am convinced that in order to minimise the negative impact of the world crisis on our economies we need effective joint actions. We should make full use of the benefits of integration, encourage mutual trade and strengthen cooperation in production.

The priority is obvious: it is to form a real customs union and a common economic space. That task can be facilitated by closer working contacts between the sectoral ministries: the sides should synchronise their positions on a permanent basis. That is why we are going to approve the schedule of joint meetings of the Russian and Belarusian ministries for this year.

I was pleased to note that the initiative of our Belarusian colleagues, of Sergei Sidorksy is being implemented and that the ministerial meetings and the work between the ministries have become more active recently. Obviously, vigorous efforts are needed to consolidate the positive results of Russian-Belarusian cooperation, in particular, the current high rate of growth of mutual trade. Last year this trade topped a record level of $34 billion, according to expert estimates.

In this connection we are planning to examine the forecast balances of supply and demand for the key products of the Union State and the balances of fuel and energy resources for 2009.

In today's meeting we will also discuss some current problems, including the implementation of some Union programmes, as well as personnel matters. In particular, the composition of the Union State Customs Committee and changes in the composition of the Tariff and Non-Tariff Regulatory Commission. We expect active and substantive work from these Union agencies.

Let us get down to business. I give the floor to Sergei Sidorsky.

Opening remarks by Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky:

Esteemed members of the Council of Ministers of the Union State, participants in the meeting,

We are holding the first meeting of the Union Government this year. In our opinion, we should determine the key areas of our movement in the context of the world financial and economic crisis for the current year, for the near term.

At the same time, I would like to briefly sum up the results of 2008. We believe that on the whole it has been a very fruitful year for the building of the Union State in every area where we made appropriate and balanced decisions.

In 2008, we held three meetings of the Union Government and put the work of bilateral working groups headed by the Deputy Prime Ministers of our states on a systematic basis.

Joint Russian and Belarusian ministerial boards have been more active. The dialogue established at the governmental and intergovernmental levels has enabled us to react promptly to the rapidly changing situation and resolve the issues that arose in bilateral relations.

On the whole we have given a good impetus to the work of building up the potential for regional cooperation. I would like to note in particular the work of the Foreign Ministries of the Russian Federation and Belarus. Belarus was visited by the governors of the Sverdlovsk, Novgorod, Samara, Vologda, and Saratov regions. Last year we sent eleven Government delegations to Russian regions spanning practically the whole of its territory, from the Kaliningrad Region to the Krasnoyarsk Territory. In every region we had a plan of joint actions to develop trade and economic cooperation. So, on the whole, as Mr Putin has pointed out, we have managed to increase our mutual trade by more than 40%, which is in addition to almost the same growth last year. Mutual trade accounting for more than $32 billion is a result that should be credited to all those who took part in implementing the concrete plans of actions and events.

Last autumn we felt the impact of the world financial crisis that has now developed into an economic crisis. It is no secret that the crisis is mounting, and this makes it incumbent upon us to take balanced decisions. I am grateful to you, Mr Putin, for agreeing as early as last year to make a solid and systemic plan of actions by the Governments of Belarus and Russia to minimise the consequences of the financial crisis in our economies.

Today we are submitting this document as the main document on the agenda of this meeting of the Union Government. I think it addresses the issues that will support our economies, prevent them from falling below the 2008 level, and preserve and even increase it somewhat. This would be a good response to the world financial crisis through the performance of the Russian and Belarusian economies.

We have agreed that the will is there among the heads of state. We, the heads of Government, have instructed our ministries and agencies, above all the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Economic Development, and the Customs Committee to submit a joint plan of measures to facilitate the movement of goods and transport vehicles on the territories of our states. We have set the task of completing this work within the shortest time possible so as to establish control of the external border by January 1, 2010. Accordingly, we should put forward the solution in the Eurasian economic space, where we have decided together with our Kazakhstan colleagues to establish a common customs space as early as 2010. I would like to thank the experts who have put this issue on the agenda of the Union Government. It is one of the key issues that need to be examined.

On the whole, we believe that the programmes we had in 2008 will not be reduced in 2009. Suffice it to say that we are planning to increase the share of the Union State budget in high-tech programmes, that is, the programmes we are making with an eye to the future, after our economies emerge from the crisis, by 20% to 2.5 billion Russian roubles, or more than $60 million. I agree that this meeting is a prelude to the Supreme State Council meeting on February 3. We should prepare the agenda of the Supreme State Council and submit it for examination by the heads of state.

Thank you.