Union State

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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 1996
• Treaty on the Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus
8 December 1999
Area
• Total
17,305,841 km2 (6,681,823 sq mi)a
Population
• 2021 estimate
Increase 158,000,000a
• Density
8.88/km2 (23.0/sq mi)
GDP (PPP)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $4.6 trillion[3]
GDP (nominal)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $1.8 trillion[3]
Currency
Time zoneUTC+2 to +12
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy
Driving sideright
Website
www.soyuz.by Edit this at Wikidata
  1. ^ Combined Belarus and Russian numbers, excluding annexed Crimea in March 2014 that is not recognized internationally.

The Union State,[a] also referred to as the Union State of Russia and Belarus,[b] not to be confused with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is an organization consisting of Russia and Belarus that was formed on the 8th of December 1999.[4][5] The Union State was originally aimed at uniting both countries, and as such, the Union State in its planned final form would be structured similarly to confederations or political unions. However, both countries still preserve their independence currently.[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 the Union State.[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 goals of the Union State mostly focus on economic integration.[12] Other areas and issues, such as political integration, were put on hold due to the political situation in the member-states. Talks held in Moscow saw the member-states agree that further integration would proceed while there are some more issues that need to be resolved. 26-27 integration roadmaps[clarification needed] on the government level were agreed on. The talks identified the biggest issue plaguing member-states as problems regarding taxation.[13] Work on integration in defense areas and intelligence is said to be[by whom?] going well.[14]

History of formation[edit]

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[edit]

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

Union State according to signed treaty have exclusive jurisdiction that includes creation of a single economic space and legal foundations for a common market, monetary union, one tax and one pricing policy, unified development and procurement of defense equipment, unified system of technical support for the armed forces, common command of regional military further realized through many other documents based on this Union State jurisdiction,[27] common border policy and other jurisdictions.[5]

Besides exclusive jurisdictions of 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.

Union state is ruled through Supreme State Council of the Union.[24] The Supreme State Council of the Union includes the heads of member states, heads of member states governments, member states heads of 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 December 8, 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 legistature.[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 rubles or approximately 61.631.112 USD[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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 ruble would be tied to the United States dollar instead of the Russian ruble.[37]

Citizenship and freedom of migration[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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.[43]

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.[44]

Value added tax controversy[edit]

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[edit]

  •  Abkhazia and  South Ossetia both currently have observer status in parliamentary sessions.[45] In informal statements, the prime ministers of the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (which is recognised only by Russia and a few other countries) have expressed interest in joining the Union with the Spokesman of the Union reciprocating this interest. No formal requests are known so far.[46]
    The Union State (yellow), states that have expressed interest in joining the Union (green), and other members of the CIS (pink).
  •  Kazakhstan had expressed interest in forming a separate customs union with Russia and Belarus by 2010.[47] This Customs Union was formed as planned at the beginning of 2010. Kazakhstan has mentioned that it may join the Union State after some time.[47]
  •  Kyrgyzstan: As of June 2007, opposition in Kyrgyzstan, which has been locked in political turmoil, had initiated a nationwide referendum to join the union of Russia and Belarus.[48]
  •  Moldova: In 2001, president of Moldova Vladimir Voronin announced right after his election that he had plans for Moldova to join the Union of Russia and Belarus.[49][50] The coming to power of the Alliance for European Integration at the 2009 Moldovan elections has since shifted Moldovan interest towards the European Union.
  •  Transnistria: in the Transnistrian referendum of 2006 97.2% of the population voted for the integration of the unrecognized state of Transnistria into Russia, which analysts say indicates a possibility that Transnistria might unilaterally ask to join the Union, once it is established. Already in spring 1998, 66.5% of Transnistrian voters supported joining the Union of Russia and Belarus in a non-binding referendum by the Transnistrian state.[51] However, not being recognised by either member, this is unlikely to happen in the near future.
  •  Ukraine: In response to speculation about Ukraine joining the Union, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych declared that Ukraine is an independent sovereign state and this is not something that can be questioned by anyone in the government.[52] The issue is to be reconsidered in the new light of the Revolution of Dignity and the developments of the Euromaidan movement seeking for the integration into the European Union. During the term of office of the fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, the Constitution of Ukraine in 2019 was amended to consolidate the irreversibility of Ukraine’s course to join the European Union and NATO after the events of the Revolution of Dignity in 2014. In 2021, the sixth president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi, stated that the creation of a "true union state" between Belarus and Russia is a real danger for Ukraine.[53]
  •  Novorossiya: During the 2014 Russian military intervention in Ukraine, Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Temirgaliev of the Russian-annexed Republic of Crimea expressed the hope that southeastern Ukraine would form a "Ukrainian Federation" and join the Union State.[54] However, only the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic broke away from Ukraine, and the confederate Novorossiya political project was frozen at the start of 2015.[55][56][57]
  •  FR Yugoslavia/ Serbia: In 1999 the Parliament of FR Yugoslavia voted for the country to join the Union. In 2007 Tomislav Nikolić said during a speech that he wished that Serbia would strengthen its ties with and eventually join the Union State.[58] Serbia has since submitted a membership application to the EU.

Renewed interest[edit]

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
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.[59] 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]".[60]

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."[61] 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.[62]

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.[63] 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 Russian rubles, an increase of over 2 billion rubles from 2008.

On 1 August 2011, Putin stated he supported a union of Russia, Belarus, and possibly South Ossetia.[64] Belarusian Foreign Minister spokesman Andrei Savinykh rejected the idea,[65] 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."[65]

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.[66]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  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[edit]

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  51. ^ "Transnistria or Moldavian Transnistrian Republic: Just facts". Trades Ministry of the Republic of Moldova. Archived from the original on 20 December 2008. That same year, the Tiraspol Supreme Soviet chairman declared that the Transnistrian republic will demand that Moldova accepts full integration into the CIS and that it joins the Russian Federation–Belarus union, viewed as a possible future model for the MTR's status vis-a-vis the Republic of Moldova. A non-binding referendum on joining the Russia–Belarus union was held between April and June 1998, with over 66 percent of the ballots supporting the union. However, like the province of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea (isolated from Russia by independent Lithuania and Poland), the east-bank separatist region, has no common borders with either Belarus or the Russian Federation.
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