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Official website of the President of Russia

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Opening address at a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Russia-Belarus Union State

January 26, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow

Vladimir Putin: As the host of this meeting, I want to begin by welcoming the President of Belarus and all our Belarusian friends in Moscow and to wish productive work to both delegations.

We are beginning the practical stage of our work today, the establishment of working bodies of the Union State. This is a very important and highly responsible stage. We are not beginning from scratch. Moreover, I firmly believe – and there is a clause in the theory of law – that laws serve to formalise relations that have already developed in society. I think that this is one of such cases, because the integration of Russia and Belarus began long ago and is proceeding quite well. My colleague, Prime Minister of Belarus Sergei Ling, and I have discussed this just now.

Yesterday Mr Ling used the opportunities stipulated in the procedure of the CIS summit to meet with Russian leaders to discuss different issues in the economic life of Russia and Belarus. This is a clear proof of ongoing integration processes. In this sense, the agreement to set up a Union State will only formalise facts the presidents and governments of the two countries co-ordinated long ago. I believe that this is very important.

The first thing I want to say here is that this is a union of peoples, the union of the Belarusian people and the peoples of the Russian Federation, and we should keep this in mind when setting up Union bodies.

Why is this so important? Yesterday we discussed at length the establishment of bodies of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and Alexander Grigoryevich [Lukashenko] and some other heads of the CIS states said that we should not allow an unlimited expansion of the bureaucratic mechanism. We must not permit this also in the case of the Union State. Mr Lukashenko and I have discussed this issue in a framework mode, and we have agreed that certain steps should be taken to streamline the work of our bureaucracies. It is not us who should work for the bureaucracy, but the bureaucratic mechanism must function to streamline our work. I think it will be useful for us to focus on approaches to solving these problems now.

I would like to remind you that we have signed a treaty on the Union State and also have an action programme, which is very important. This is what the public in our countries has not noticed until now. In my opinion, this is a highly important policy document that constitutes the essence of the Union Treaty, and we must act in accordance with it.

And lastly, an issue of fundamental importance: Our actions will become reality only after their formalisation. This will happen after we elect a joint parliament, which will start formulating laws. We will not be able to create anything really important without a legal foundation. This is the direction in which we propose to move.

I wish the Russian and Belarusian delegations every success in their work. I am sure that it will be productive.

Thank you.

January 26, 2000, The Kremlin, Moscow