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Meeting of Supreme Eurasian Economic Council

May 19, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region

Vladimir Putin took part in a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council held via videoconference.

The meeting was also attended by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of Moldova Igor Dodon (head of the EAEU observer state) and Chairman of the Eurasian Economic Commission Board Mikhail Myasnikovich.

* * *

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Once again, good afternoon, colleagues.

You have already noted that we are going through a difficult period – it would be fair to say that these are hard times, because of the pandemic. Recent events have directly affected our cooperation, the economy and contacts between people and, therefore, created certain problems with implementing our joint agenda.

That being said, the presiding country, Belarus, has been able to find opportunities for us to continue to work together – and work extensively. I would like to thank the President of Belarus for holding this second meeting. Members of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council already met via videoconference on April 14. The EEC is also working hard with a representative of Belarus, which is also a good example to follow, I believe.

Of course, we all are interested in ensuring our union’s dynamic development. It has existed for over five years now and brought tangible benefits to all of our states. It has contributed to solving major tasks with regard to developing our national economies and improving the quality of life for our citizens.

The draft Strategic Directions for Eurasian Economic Integration Development until 2025, prepared for our meeting today, is aimed at the further development of all-round cooperation among our five countries. This document sets out comprehensive objectives aimed at completing the development of a common market of goods, services and workforce, improving our customs and administrative regulations and developing a digital environment. Our colleagues have spoken about this, and I agree with them that it is an extremely important sphere. Another objective is to create a system of management for our joint projects in high performance sectors.

The strategy provides the basis for stimulating import substitution, industrial localisation and joint pro-integration initiatives. Our countries must create new enterprises to ensure our food security and to produce basic necessities and other critically important goods.

The Strategic Directions envision the development of cooperation between the EAEU member states in research, technology and the humanitarian sphere. Our plans provide for launching major joint projects in vocational and university education, training personnel, enhancing academic mobility and implementing multilateral educational programmes.

Of course, these ambitious development plans for the Eurasian Economic Union in the period until 2025 imply even more active interaction and even closer coordination between the member states. But overall, we believe that this is a truly comprehensive document that sets out the EAEU course for the immediate future and the medium term. Its adoption will create a reliable basis for deepening integration, continuing the rapprochement of our economies and expanding the spheres of our cooperation.

Almost the entire draft has been approved, expect for a single paragraph on gas transport tariffs. The President of Kyrgyzstan, who spoke before me, also mentioned this. There is a formula supported by three countries – Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Under this approach, the agreement on gas prices could be reached later as part of talks on building a common gas market within the EAEU. Our Armenian and Belarusian colleagues have not accepted this formula so far. They have their own point of view on this matter. If they agreed to this approach, there would be no other obstacles left for approving the Strategic Directions.

As for the single tariff for gas transport and transit services, as proposed by our friends from Armenia and Belarus, we believe that we can have a single tariff only within a single market with a single budget and taxation system. The EAEU has yet to reach this advanced level of integration, as we all know. For now, gas prices must be market-based, taking into consideration suppliers’ costs and investments, as well as ensuring a reasonable return on investment. Colleagues, please note that this is common practice around the world.

If the position of our Armenian and Belarusian friends remains unchanged, removing the paragraph on gas from the draft Strategic Directions altogether could be a viable option, so that we could approve the document today. This way, we can continue the discussion on gas pricing at the expert level within the Eurasian Economic Commission. By the way, it has special responsibility for achieving the strategic objectives that we are about to outline. To do so, we need to increase the Commission’s institutional weight and give it more responsibility, including for implementing the resolutions of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council.

It would be advisable for the Eurasian Development Bank and the Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation to become more actively involved with the Eurasian Economic Commission. These regional financial mechanisms can and should contribute to major joint integration projects.

Of course, it is essential that we continue efforts to step up the EAEU’s mutually beneficial economic cooperation with its interested foreign partners.

A number of countries and integration structures have already established direct ties with the EAEU, and the ranks of its partners are growing. The EAEU signed international agreements with China, Vietnam, Iran, Serbia and Singapore. Talks with Israel and Egypt are at an advanced stage, and trade consultations with India have been launched.

Of course, maintaining various dialogue formats with other EAEU partners, primarily within the CIS, is also a priority. We need to expand ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. I strongly believe that by working together with these major regional associations, as well as through continuing the efforts to coordinate the EAEU’s activity with the Chinese Belt and Road initiative we will be able to deliver on the project to establish the Greater Eurasian Partnership.

We have set ambitious, large-scale objectives for our union. We will have to go to great lengths to achieve a definitive victory over the coronavirus epidemic, restore economic growth and resolve social issues. Of course, Russia will remain in touch with its colleagues and friends at all times. We will find ways to work, the way Belarus has. Let me emphasise once again that Russia is interested in developing our union. I would like to thank all our colleagues for today’s work and express my special gratitude to President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.

Thank you very much.

May 19, 2020, Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Region