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Commonwealth of Independent States summit

October 10, 2014, Minsk

While on a working visit to Belarus, Vladimir Putin took part in the summit of Heads of State of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The summit’s agenda focused on developing multilateral economic, humanitarian and law enforcement cooperation. A number of joint agreements are expected to be signed following the talks.

Taking part in the summit’s narrow format meeting were President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, President of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kyrgyzstan Almazbek Atambayev, President of Moldova Nicolae Timofti, President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, and Chairman of the Executive Committee and  CIS Executive Secretary Sergei Lebedev.

The talks continued later with participation by members of the countries’ respective delegations.

A package of joint documents was signed following the summit meeting, in particular, decisions on the appeal of the CIS Heads of State to the peoples of the Commonwealth member states and the world community in connection with the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941–1945, on the declaration by the CIS Heads of State on preserving and strengthening the international drug control system, on cooperation to prevent illegal migration and human trafficking, and on declaring 2016 the Year of Education in the CIS.

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Speech at a narrow format meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of State

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Lukashenko, colleagues,

First of all, I want to follow my colleagues in saying that our Belarusian friends have been acting as presiding country in the CIS with success for the second year in a row now. Thanks to their efforts, we have succeeded in implementing a lot of the initiatives planned earlier and have put together a busy agenda for the period ahead.

We are particularly grateful to the Belarusian presidency for ensuring all-round efforts to prepare for the 70th anniversary of Victory in the Great Patriotic War. It is our common duty to celebrate this big anniversary in worthy fashion. Colleagues, let me take this opportunity to reiterate our invitation to visit Moscow in May 2015 to take part in the celebrations. 

Developing comprehensive cooperation within the CIS always has been and remains a priority for Russia. The CIS brings together our closest partners and has long since proved its worth as a key instrument for strengthening good-neighbourly and mutually advantageous ties in the post-Soviet area.

The scope and variety of the CIS’s practical work expands with every passing year. Today, our joint work within the CIS covers all key areas of contacts between our countries. We place particular emphasis on building up our economic ties. The CIS countries’ total combined GDP grew by 1.1 percent over the first half of this year. The World Bank forecasts that the CIS countries’ economies will grow by 2.2 percent over the year as a whole. Growth is proceeding at a satisfactory pace, but still does not reflect in full measure the unique resource, demographic and transit potential that our region possesses.

We have seen a slowdown in trade within the CIS. Trade between our countries dropped by 9 percent to $111 billion. It stood at $123 billion for the same period in 2013 and our total trade last year reached a figure of $235 billion.

These figures can be put down in large part to the problematic external situation, but this is not the only reason. They are also the result of a change in economic priorities in some of the CIS member countries. Our Moldovan colleague spoke of Russia’s actions in response to Moldova’s signing of the [association] agreement with the European Union. We never opposed closer relations with the European Union and we ourselves want closer relations, but the question is the conditions in which this cooperation takes place. The problems are not due to response or protective measures taken by the Russian Federation, but arise because our partners do not see the need to discuss in full, timely, open and professional fashion the risks for the economies of Russia and other CIS countries and the impact on our free trade zone and its operation if our colleagues join other trade and economic blocs. 

After all, we do need to think about the impact that the agreements our colleagues sign with the EU will have on our own market. We need to think about how European goods will enter our market, and what quantity of goods could enter our market or other markets in the CIS free trade zone under the guise of locally produced goods. This is the real issue. If we were to discuss and settle all of these matters in timely fashion, there would be no problems.

This is true of Moldova and also true of Ukraine. It is no easy task to fully harmonise the agreements our colleagues have signed with the CIS’s legal base, especially the agreement on the free trade zone of October 18, 2011. Russia is ready to work on settling this matter in order not to lose the partnerships in industry, finance, agriculture and transport that we have developed within the CIS. 

Basing ourselves on this approach, we held intensive consultations with the European Union and Ukraine. The result was that we agreed to postpone implementation of the Association Agreement’s economic part until December 31, 2015. But where was Moldova? Why were we not able to do the same and build such relations with Moldova? We wanted this and appealed repeatedly for it to happen, but regrettably, we never received any clear answer from our Moldovan friends.

By the deadline I just mentioned, we have to settle the differences and find compromise solutions. I think that all countries participating in the CIS free trade zone have an interest in making this happen.

Overall, we need to make more active use of the positive experience of multilateral cooperation that we have built up. The practice of holding themed years for example in the CIS has shown its effectiveness over these last years.

This year was declared Year of Tourism in the CIS and we took steps to unify standards in the tourism sector, develop regional infrastructure and establish new trans-border tourism routes.

Next year will be marked as Veterans’ Year in the CIS. We plan a number of additional measures to improve veterans’ socioeconomic situation, finances and healthcare.

I think we will reach an agreement at this summit to declare 2016 the Year of Education in the CIS, and we hope that you will support this Russian initiative. Its aim is to take our humanitarian ties further, bring our education standards closer together and encourage academic mobility in the CIS. 

Let me note that the Russian education system is becoming more and more open to our CIS partners. This year, for example, we have more than 130,000 students from CIS countries studying in Russia – 19 percent more than in 2013. In six CIS countries – Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan – we have opened centres where students can sit the national final school exam. We plan to open more of these centres.

Our law enforcement cooperation continues to grow. A number of agreements have been prepared in time for this summit. They aim to increase cooperation between our border guards and our financial intelligence agencies. We have drafted a package of collective measures to prevent illegal migration and human trafficking.

We think it essential to step up our coordination in combating drug trafficking, especially given the increase in opiate production in Afghanistan. We are grateful for your support of the Russian initiative to adopt at this summit the Declaration on Preserving and Strengthening the International Drug Control System. 

Colleagues, our common task is to preserve and develop the CIS’ constructive potential, as our colleagues said too today, and ensure that each CIS country reaps practical benefits from our multilateral cooperation. I am sure that Kazakhstan, the next presiding country, will work in this direction. Mr Nazarbayev, we, for our part, will support you in every way we can and will help our Kazakhstani friends.

Thank you for your attention.

October 10, 2014, Minsk