Integration processes in the Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was established in 1991 and the CIS Charter, signed in 1992, consists of several sections: objectives and principles; membership; collective security and military-political cooperation; conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of disputes; cooperation in the economic, social and legal spheres; Commonwealth bodies, inter-parliamentary cooperation, financial issues. The CIS member states are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

The Commonwealth of Independent States is an attempt to reintegrate the former Soviet republics. Currently, the political bodies of the CIS are functioning – the Council of Heads of State and the Council of Heads of Government (CST). Functional bodies have been formed, including representatives of the relevant ministries and departments of the states that make up the Commonwealth. These are the Customs Council, the Council for Railway Transport, the Interstate Statistical Committee.

The unification of states within the CIS took place according to the following principles:

Member States are sovereign and equal; Member States are autonomous and equal subjects of international law.

The objectives of the Commonwealth were:

cooperation in the political, economic, environmental, humanitarian and cultural fields; promoting comprehensive and balanced economic and social development of the Member States within the framework of the common economic space, as well as interstate cooperation and integration; ensuring human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the universally recognized principles and norms of international law and OSCE documents; cooperation among Member States in order to ensure international peace and security, take effective measures to reduce armaments and military expenditures, eliminate nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, and achieve general and complete disarmament; and the peaceful settlement of disputes and conflicts among Member States.

Let us consider in more detail the institutional structure of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Council of Heads of State is the highest body of the Commonwealth. It considers and takes decisions on the main issues of the activities of the Member States. The Council meets twice a year and extraordinary sessions may be convened at the initiative of any Member State. The Council is chaired alternately by the Heads of State.

The Council of Heads of Government shall coordinate the cooperation of the executive authorities of the Member States in the economic, social and other fields. Meetings of the Council of Heads of Government are held four times a year. Decisions of the Council of Heads of State and the Council of Heads of Government shall be taken by consensus.

The Council of Ministers for Foreign Affairs coordinates the activities of the Member States in the field of foreign policy, including their activities in international organizations.

The Coordination and Advisory Committee is the permanent executive and coordinating body of the CIS, consisting of permanent plenipotentiary representatives (two from each state) and a coordinator of the Committee. It develops and submits proposals for cooperation in the political, economic and other fields, promotes the implementation of the economic policies of the Member States, and deals with the creation of common markets for labor, capital and securities.

The Council of Ministers of Defence deals with matters relating to the military policy and structure of the armed forces of the Member States. The Supreme Command of the United Armed Forces of the CIS was transformed in 1993 into the Headquarters for the Coordination of Military Cooperation of the CIS Member States. In 1992, the Council of Commanders of the Border Troops replaced the Joint Border Troop Command.

The Economic Court ensures the fulfillment of economic obligations within the Commonwealth. Its competence also includes the resolution of disputes arising in the process of fulfilling economic obligations.

The Interstate Bank deals with issues of mutual payments and clearing settlements between the CIS member states.

The Commission on Human Rights is an advisory agency of the CIS that monitors the implementation of human rights obligations undertaken by the Member States of the Commonwealth.

The Inter-Parliamentary Assembly consists of parliamentary delegations and ensures the holding of inter-parliamentary consultations, discussion of cooperation within the CIS, develops joint proposals regarding the activities of national parliaments.

The CIS Executive Secretariat is responsible for the organizational and technical support of the work of the CIS bodies. Its functions also include a preliminary analysis of issues submitted to the heads of State for consideration and legal expertise of draft documents prepared for the main bodies of the CIS.

The activities of the CIS bodies are financed by the Member States.

Since the establishment of the Commonwealth, the main efforts of the member states have been focused on developing and deepening cooperation in such areas as foreign policy, security and defense, economic and financial policy, developing common positions and pursuing a common policy.

Currently, there is a multi-speed economic integration within the CIS. There are such integration groupings as the Union State of Russia and Belarus, Central Asian Cooperation (unites Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), the Eurasian Economic Community (Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), the alliance of Georgia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Moldova – “GUUAM”.

The integration processes between Belarus and Russia, which began in December 1990 , are developing (deepening), so, in 1996, the Treaty on the Formation of the Community of Belarus and Russia was signed. The countries decided on a voluntary basis to form an integrated politically and economically The Community of Belarus and Russia in order to unite the material and intellectual potentials of their states for economic recovery, creating equal conditions for improving the standard of living of peoples.

Interregional cooperation has become the main channel along which the flow of Belarusian and Russian goods moves, interstate cooperation supplies and direct ties between business entities are carried out. Today, the share of the Russian Federation in the total foreign trade of the Republic of Belarus is about 60%. Belarus is also one of the main foreign trade partners of the Russian Federation.

On December 8, 1999, the signing of the Treaty on the Establishment of the Union State and the Programme  of Action of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation on the implementation of its provisions marked the entry of Belarus and Russia into a new level of union relations, determined the main directions and stages of further development of the integration of Belarus and Russia. Currently, the structure of the supreme bodies, the organizational and legal foundations of the Union State have been determined. The development of the Belarusian-Russian integration processes is carried out in various spheres (political, economic, budgetary and credit, ecology, social, scientific and technical cooperation, etc.).

Over the past two years, the Supreme Council of Belarus and Russia, parliamentary assemblies and the Executive Committee have jointly managed to achieve positive results. An agreement was reached on the joint activities of the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs on the basis of the unified programme of action developed by them for these years. The adoption of the Federal Budget was of great importance. A gradual transition to uniform standards of social protection is being carried out, and, in particular, employment, remuneration of citizens of both states. To protect the economic interests of the Union, a customs committee was created – a joint service for managing customs structures. It is engaged in the organization and improvement of customs, the development and application of a unified regulatory framework.

The reciprocal granting of national treatment and guarantees to business entities of the Republic of Belarus on the territory of The Russian Federation, and vice versa, from 1 January 1998 eliminated the formal restriction of their activities. They have ceased to be foreign to each other. Thus, new prospects and opportunities for expanding production volumes and mutual trade are opened up for enterprises and business people of the two states. A number of effective measures and mechanisms for specific mutually beneficial cooperation have been developed.

Thus, the implementation of the agreement on the provision of a state loan to Belarus by the Russian side in 1998 made it possible to revive the production of diesel engines at the Yaroslavl Motor Plant. At the same time, Belarusian automobile plants, having received components, were able to provide thousands of people with stable earnings, to meet the needs of both countries in automotive equipment. The work on the creation of interstate financial and industrial groups has been transferred to the practical plane.

The Belarusian-Russian economic integration of the two countries, the desire for which is dictated by the urgent need to unite efforts in the revival of strong and mutually beneficial industrial, scientific, technical and trade ties, has become a real trend today.

The development of integration processes in the CIS reflects the internal political and socio-economic problems faced by the participating countries. The existing differences in the structure of the economy and the depth of market reforms determine the choice and level of socio-economic interaction of countries in the post-Soviet space.

The Commonwealth performs well-defined regulatory functions in the post-Soviet space, preventing or smoothing out periodically arising contradictions and conflicts between the participants, to one degree or another maintaining and developing the existing multifaceted ties. Obviously, the CIS will continue to exist as a useful forum for consultations, developing a mechanism for rapprochement and harmonization of interests. During the summits, attempts will be made to increase the effectiveness of interaction, improve the structure and activities of interstate institutions, and develop cooperation in certain areas of activity. Genuine, effective  integration of the post-Soviet states will develop on the basis of mutual benefit, improvement and development of the potential of market relations both within and between states.