The integration model – an example for many
The illegitimate sanctions pressure faced by Belarus and Russia pushed the countries to deepen cooperation in various sectors, primarily in industry. Production chains in mechanical engineering, microelectronics and heavy industry are being established. After all, such interaction in the current conditions is a vital issue. Experts are sure: today the integration modelof the Union State is an example for many others.
Economists and political scientists agree that at the present stage, the key impetus for the Belarus – Russia integration development was the adoption in 2021 of the decree of the Supreme State Council, which approved the main areas of work until 2023, and 28 union programs. This is a package of documents unprecedented in depth, primarily of sectoral cooperation, covering almost all areas with an emphasis on the economic component. The task is to build unified markets, develop unified or harmonized rules depending on the union program. And the events of the early last year proved the timeliness and correctness of decisions taken by the heads of state.
— The model nature of interaction between Belarus and Russia has a considerable effect on results evaluation, — Dmitry Golubnichy, analyst at the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Research, says. — Integration within the framework of the Union State, which today has acquired a platform in the form of 28 union programs, is often considered as a full stop in the completion of integration. At the same time, this is an ambitious program to combine asymmetric economies. The Union programs cover almost all sectors of the economy, which implies the phased implementation of the intended goals, first of all, in the field of legislation of the two countries. Therefore, at the current stage, the citizens of Belarus and Russia enjoy to a greater extent the bonuses that were achieved earlier.
Experts are sure that in the current conditions, operational and tactical formats of integration interaction are more important, primarily in the field of import substitution. Such projects always require more dynamic coordination, which is formed given country capabilities, as well as regional and global market situation. With the Union programs as the basis, the real effect can be concentrated around such projects as industrial cooperation, logistics infrastructure, and high technologies development.
— Interregional cooperation is a special direction, — the analyst assured. — It has a key role for Belarusian-Russian relations, the main indicator of which is about ten meetings of the President with the heads of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation last year. A notable advantage of this format is the availability of opportunities to identify new growth points of Belarusian-Russian relations in the regional context.
The financial side of the issue
Last year demonstrated a serious restructuring of the entire system of financial relations in the Union State. Belarus and Russia switched to mutual settlements in national currencies, so as not to depend on fluctuations in the dollar and euro, speculation in the currency markets, as well as possible new sanctions. Settlements in the national currencies of Russia and Belarus in 2022 exceeded 80% in mutual trade, including due to the implementation of 28 union programs, BISR analyst Olga Lazorkina recalled:
— At the same time, the issue of ensuring stable function of the financial system of the Union State is fundamental. Belarus and Russia are influenced by external factors, especially illegitimate restrictive measures. Moreover, if the task of last year was to adapt financial mechanisms to new trading conditions, today it is necessary to reach the level of strategic security of the financial system. Independence from the settlement system of the Western bloc ceases to be just a task, it is a new reality that needs no elaboration. Especially when everyone saw that the economy had become hostage to the geopolitics and ambitions of separate countries. Expanding trade and investment without restrictions by unscrupulous partners is beneficial to all States.
A new impulse
The expert stressed that Belarusian-Russian integration is a process that develops in its own logic, it needs to be dynamic, but without spurring. Last year showed that the Union State is ready to respond promptly to tough economic conditions. Urgent decisions on import substitution programs are a significant achievement. The next step is a major transformation of trade logistics. It is important that the network of diplomatic missions of the two countries is also expanding.
— The recent opening of the Consulate General of Russia in Grodno is a logical step in the framework of the growing integration of the regions, — Olga Lazorkina continues. — This practice has been tested for decades and has demonstrated successful results in many countries. We are used to the fact that only supreme meetings are an impulse to expand cooperation. However, daily painstaking work on the ground is necessary, and efficiency in decision-making is becoming in demand today. Consulates, according to international law, are empowered to establish a wide range of contacts with local authorities, business, and academia. In addition, it is extremely important to understand the specifics of the country's legislation and, equally important, the mentality. Despite the fact that Belarusians and Russians communicate very closely, the specifics is left out. Given that in the distant regions of Russia, the understanding of Belarus at the everyday level cannot be at a high level, the work of the consulate is essential.
Recall that the first consular reception of citizens at the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in Grodno was on January 9. Belarus is also developing its infrastructure in Russia. There is already an agreement on the opening of a Consulate General in St. Petersburg; Rostov-on-Don and Yekaterinburg are in the plans.