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Union State
  • Союзное государство (Russian)
  • Саюзная дзяржава (Belarusian)
Location of Union State
Headquarters8/5 Staraya Square, Entrance 3, 103132 Moscow, Russia[1]
Largest cityMoscow
55°45′N 37°37′E / 55.750°N 37.617°E / 55.750; 37.617
Official languages
TypeInternational organisation
Member states
Leaders
• Chairman of the Supreme State Council
Belarus Alexander Lukashenko
• Chairman of the Council of Ministers
Russia Mikhail Mishustin
• General Secretary
Russia Dmitry Mezentsev[2]
LegislatureSupreme State Council
Formation
26 December 1991
• Commonwealth of Belarus and Russia
2 April 1997
• Treaty on the Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus
8 December 1999
Area
• Total
17,332,786 km2 (6,692,226 sq mi)a
Population
• 2022 estimate
Increase 160,500,000a
• Density
8.88/km2 (23.0/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $4.9 trillion[3]
GDP (nominal)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $2.4 trillion[3]
Currency
Time zoneUTC+2 to +12
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy
Driving sideright
  1. ^ Combined Belarus and Russian numbers, excluding annexed Crimea in March 2014 that is not recognized internationally.

The Union State,[a] officially the Union State of Russia and Belarus,[b] is a supranational organisation consisting of Russia and Belarus, with the stated aim of deepening the relationship between the two states through integration in economic and defense policy.[4][5] Originally, the Union State aimed to create a confederation, however, both countries currently retain their independence.[6] The Union State is based on a previous international treaty between Russia and Belarus[7] made on 2 April 1997.[8] Although it consists of only Russia and Belarus, other countries are allowed to join.[5] The supranational union is ruled through the Supreme State Council[9] and other governing bodies.[10] The current president of the Supreme State Council of the Union is Alexander Lukashenko, who has held the position since 2000.[11] The present goal of the Union State mainly focuses on economic integration,[12] taxation,[13] and integration of defense and intelligence apparatus.[14]

History of formation

Presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Boris Yeltsin signing the founding treaty of the Russian-Belarusian Union at the Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow, 2 April 1997
Presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Boris Yeltsin signing the founding treaty of the Russian-Belarusian Union at the Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow, 2 April 1997
Russian postage stamp commemorating the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus establishing the Union on 2 April 1996.
Russian postage stamp commemorating the Treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus establishing the Union on 2 April 1996.

The Community of Belarus and Russia was founded on 2 April 1996.[15] The basis of the union was strengthened on 2 April 1997, with the signing of the "Treaty on the Union between Belarus and Russia" at which time its name was changed to the Union of Belarus and Russia.[16]

Several further agreements were signed on 25 December 1998, with the intention of providing greater political, economic and social integration.[16]

Nevertheless, the nature of the political entity remained vague. Under pressure from his own political opponents, who argued for a reunion of the two states, and from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who sought to tie his excessively weak economy to Russia's stronger one, then Russian President Boris Yeltsin initiated the creation of the Union in order to harmonize the political and economic differences between the two nations.[17] According to some observers, Lukashenko's intention was also to gain great power, becoming the president of a future Russia-Belarus federation after Yeltsin's demise due to his all-time low popularity. However, after the resignation of Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin was elected in 2000 to succeed him as president of Russia, thus forcing Lukashenko to cancel his plans and keep balance between the independence of Belarus and Putin's increasing pressure for further integration among the two countries into the Union State.[18][19]

The Treaty on the Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus was signed on 8 December 1999.[20] The intention was to achieve a federation like the Soviet Union, with a common head of state, legislature, flag, coat of arms, anthem, constitution, army, citizenship and currency. The Union was ratified by the Russian State Duma on 22 December 1999 and the National Assembly of Belarus on 26 January 2000. On the latter date the Treaty and the Union came into effect.[21]

Then Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had put forward a similar proposal in 1994, envisioning the founding of a Eurasian union, but this proposal was not adopted until 29 May 2014 with the formation of the Eurasian Economic Union.[22]

Governing bodies of Union State and legal framework

The Treaty on the Creation of a Union State[5] creates legal framework as constitutional act and establishes the following institutions[23][9][16]

The Union State based on its founding treaties has exclusive jurisdiction over the creation of a single economic space and legal foundations for a common market, monetary union, single tax and pricing policy, unified development and procurement of defense equipment, unified system of technical support for the armed forces. Common command of regional military is further realized through many other documents based on this Union State jurisdiction,[27] common border policy and other jurisdictions.[5]

Besides exclusive jurisdictions of the Union State there are joint jurisdiction of the Union State and the subjects of the Union State that includes joint defense policy, harmonization and unification of the legislation of the subjects of the Union State, development of science, education, culture, formation of a common scientific, technological and information space, migration, working conditions and labor protection, social security, combating terrorism, corruption and others.[5]

Outside the limits of the exclusive jurisdiction of the Union State and subjects of joint jurisdiction of the Union State and the subjects of the Union State, the subjects of the Union State retain the full completeness of state power.[5]

Pavel Borodin was the first State Secretary of the Union. He was first appointed by the Supreme State Council on 26 January 2000 for a four-year term. In 2004 and 2008 his term was renewed for an additional four years, leaving office in 2011. Since then the office has been held by Grigory Rapota.[citation needed]

Union state is ruled through Supreme State Council of the Union.[24] The Supreme State Council of the Union includes the member heads of states, respective governments, and both chambers of parliaments.[11] Decisions on Supreme Council are made by principle of one state - one vote and presidents of states give that vote. Supreme Council includes the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Union that have an advisory vote. The President of the Supreme State Council is the head of one of the participating States on a rotation basis, unless the participating States agree otherwise.

Supreme State Council makes decisions on issues regarding the security of the member states of the Union including their collective protection from outside threats, the protection of the Union's borders, military development, and many other issues.

The Council of Ministers[26] is composed of the member states' Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Economy, and Finance and the State Secretary of the Union. Permanent Committee of the Union State[28] is formed as permanent working body of Council of Ministers.[29] Current president of Council of Ministers is Mikhail Mishustin.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Union is comprised by two chambers - the House of the Union and the House of Representatives. House of Representatives, should contain of 75 deputies from Russia and 28 from Belarus, elected by the general populace of each. According to treaty currently only House of the Union is formed and it consists of 72 deputies - 36 from Russia and 36 from Belarus. Before the elections for the House of Representatives of the Union State Parliament, the functions of the Union State Parliament are performed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Belarus and Russia in accordance with paragraph 4 of Article 70 of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State of 8 December 1999. Regular sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly House of the Union are held twice a year and for Quorum at least two third is needed to be present. House of the Union Parliament has president and four vice presidents and 8 permanent committees for different areas of legislature.[30] Current president of Parliamentary Assembly of Union is Vyacheslav Volodin[30][31] On 12. December 2020. 59. joint session of House of the Union parliament was held to consider Union State budget for 2021. in 4715,15 millions of roubles or approximately 61.631.112 US dollars[32][33]

Court of Union should consist of nine judges appointed for six-year terms. But while provisions for court are given in adopted treaty court was not formed.[34]

Accounting Chamber, is tasked with controlling the implementation of the Union State budget. It consists of 11 members[35] appointed for a period of 6 years from among the citizens of the member states who have experience in control and audit who are appointed by the Parliament of the Union State on the proposal of the Council of Ministers. The Accounting Chamber establishes its own regulations, which are approved by the Council of Ministers.

Language

The official languages of the Union State are the state languages of the participating states. Russian is used as a working language in the common organs of the Union State.[5]

Developments

Shortly after its inauguration, both member states seemed to have lost their enthusiasm for the Union, with first Russia, and then Belarus, restoring customs controls along their common border in 2001, effectively suspending the customs union until it was restored in 2010. Plans had also been set in motion to implement a common currency across the Union, but these have been postponed several times.

On 16 November 2010, it was announced by the Union State website that the Constitutional Act was 99% ready.[36]

Common currency

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko promised to introduce a common currency on 1 January 2004. The currency was not introduced, and the plan was pushed back by one year. On 1 January 2005, the Union State again failed to introduce a common currency, and it was again postponed by one year, which, in 2006, happened once again. During a press-conference in Minsk on 2 February 2006, Pyotr Prokopovich, chief of the National Bank of Belarus, announced that a "common currency might be introduced in 2007". This, however, failed to occur in 2007. The National Bank of the Republic of Belarus announced that, starting in 2008, the Belarusian rubel would be tied to the United States dollar instead of the Russian rouble.[37]

Citizenship and freedom of migration

Union State grants citizenship to citizens in both states meaning that every citizen of the Russian Federation and every citizen of the Republic of Belarus is at the same time a citizen of the Union with the guaranteed right to move and reside freely within the territory of the other party, allowing Belarusian citizens to travel freely in Russia and have the right to settle there to work or study, and vice versa including possession, use and disposal of property on the territory of another state.[38] The Union State does provide citizens of Russia and Belarus the right to work and permanently settle in either country without formal immigration procedures otherwise mandatory for foreign nationals. They retain their national passports and other identification papers.

Military

On 10 February 2009, Russia and Belarus implemented the first stage of joint military officer training programs designed to integrate the military structures of the countries. This military collective is called the Regional Forces Group of Belarus and Russia (RGF). The goal of these operations is to ensure cohesive training, practice and implementation of military interests for the nations, and were aimed at strategic and battle training taking place in February and March 2009.[39] Furthermore, the military doctrine of the Russian Federation provides that "an armed attack on the state-participant in the Union State, as well as all other actions involving the use of military force against it," should be deemed "an act of aggression against the Union State", authorizing Moscow to "take measures in response".[40]

Proposed symbols

Since the formation of the Union State in 1997, Belarus and Russia have thus far failed to institute any symbols or even a flag for the Union State. There have, however been several proposals for flags and coats of arms.[41][42]

Two proposals have been made for the flag of the Union. In all cases, they are modifications to the flag of the Soviet Union, but representing the state (not communism). In both cases, two gold stars are placed in the canton of the red flag (to represent the two states of the Union).[42]

A proposed coat of arms is a modification of the double-headed eagle holding the coats of arms of Russia and Belarus.[41]

A song called "Sovereign Union of Nations" (Russian: Державный союз народов Derzhavny soyuz narodov, Belarusian: Дзяржаўны саюз народаў Dzyarzhauny sayuz narodau) has been proposed as the Union's unofficial anthem. The song, which was modified from the National Anthem of the Soviet Union, refers to a wider union of the two nations.[43]

Value added tax controversy

Belarus and Russia had been collecting a value added tax (VAT), meant to finance the Union State, in the country of origin, but from 1 January 2005, VAT is collected in the country of destination, as in most other independent countries of the world. This change gave rise to a considerable degree of confusion and has disrupted many trade operations between Belarus and Russia. On 10 February 2005, private entrepreneurs in Belarus staged a one-day warning strike, protesting the new VAT scheme between the two countries and Lukashenko's economic policies.

Contemplated expansion

Union State (with annexed territories) with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria.
Union State (with annexed territories) with Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria.

Renewed interest

GUAM Organization for Democracy and Economic DevelopmentGeorgia (country)AzerbaijanUkraineMoldovaTajikistanTurkmenistanCollective Security Treaty OrganizationEurasian Economic UnionUzbekistanKyrgyzstanKazakhstanArmeniaUnion StateBelarusRussiaCommonwealth of Independent StatesCommonwealth of Independent States Free Trade AreaBaltic AssemblyLithuaniaLatviaEstoniaCommunity for Democracy and Rights of NationsTransnistriaAbkhaziaSouth OssetiaRepublic of Artsakh
An Euler diagram showing the relationships among various supranational organisations in the territory of the former Soviet Unionvde

On 15 December 2006, talks over the Union State were heating up.[58] By January 2007, however, talks appeared to be stalled, as President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus stated: "The Russian leadership is demanding that we join the Russian Federation—that's what is in the heads of the Russian leadership. I don't want to bury the sovereignty and independence of [Belarus]." He added: "From all the consultations and discussions, I have understood that we have different approaches and understandings of the building of a union state", and opposed "the possibility of the incorporation into Russia [of Belarus]".[59]

However, on 19 October 2007, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov announced that the budget of the Union State "will grow by no less than ten percent next year, and that growth will provide for worthy funding of our common projects."[60] This has led to speculation that the Russian government have renewed their interest in the idea.

A meeting between President Lukashenko of Belarus, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin was held in Minsk 13–14 December 2007. This meeting received a considerable amount of media attention and raised speculation that a Union State might indeed be the focus of a new initiative by both governments. Of primary interest was renewed discussion of the Union Parliament (which, although planned, was never actually realized) and a Union State Constitutional Act, an instrument which could strengthen the authority of the Union. According to State Secretary Borodin, five variants of this Act were discussed at the meeting, each of which would involve a 7 to 10 year transitional period in the Union's development. Trade and energy issues were also discussed.[61]

On 27 May 2008, President Lukashenko, acting in his capacity as Chairman of the Supreme State Council named then Russian Prime Minister and current President Putin Chairman of the Council of Ministers.[62] This move raised speculation that the Union was about to undergo a significant political transformation. However, the most visible and arguably important official in the Union has been the State Secretary, who runs the Union State's day-to-day operations. In the same meeting, State Secretary Borodin announced that the 2009 Union State budget would total 6–7 billion roubles, an increase of over 2 billion roubles from 2008.

On 1 August 2011, Putin stated he supported a union of Russia, Belarus, and possibly South Ossetia.[63] Belarusian Foreign Minister spokesman Andrei Savinykh rejected the idea,[64] as did Dmitri Medojev, South Ossetia's ambassador to Moscow, who stated "Our people voted for independence in a referendum in 2006 and they do not relish the idea of becoming part of the Russian Federation."[64]

Since 2015, focus on developing relations between former members of the Soviet Union is on continued development of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), itself a further development of the Eurasian Customs Union established in 2010. It is modeled on the integration of the European Union and comprises 5 member states: Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan has also expressed an interest in joining. However, the EAEU is only an economic union, and at present, political integration remains within the remit of the Union State.

Deeper economic integration is proposed in 2021 within current talks of member states.[65] In November 2021, Russia and Belarus signed an agreement to provide for common policies on taxation, banking, industry, agriculture, and energy.[66]

On 18 March 2022, the Russian government announced that all restrictions on the movement of citizens between Russia and Belarus would be lifted.[67] On 1 July 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the "unification" process has been accelerated to help alleviate the economic damage caused by sanctions due to the Russo-Ukrainian War.[68]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Russian: Сою́зное госуда́рство, tr. Soyuznoye gosudarstvo, IPA: [sɐˈjuznəjə ɡəsʊˈdarstvə]; Belarusian: Саю́зная дзяржа́ва, romanizedSajuznaja dziaržava.
  2. ^ Russian: Сою́зное госуда́рство Росси́и и Белару́си, tr. Soyuznoe gosudarstvo Rossii i Belarusi, IPA: [sɐˈjuznəjə ɡəsʊˈdarstvə rɐˈsʲiɪ i bʲɪlɐˈrusʲɪ]; Belarusian: Саю́зная дзяржа́ва Расі́і і Белару́сі, romanized: Sajuznaja dziaržava Rasii i Bielarusi.

References

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