This is not something one hears about too often, but it turns out to be very interesting. Obviously there will be a conference held in St. Petersburg to discuss the further development of the Union State of Russia and Belarus (Союзное государство России и Беларуси). As per the official publication:
On May 26-27, 2010 a scientific-practical conference “Actual problems of construction and development of the Union State will be held in St. Petersburg (Tauride Palace).
Deputies of the Parliamentary Assembly, representatives of the Standing Committee of the Union State, local executive and legislative authorities, ministries and agencies of Belarus and the Russian Federation, heads of Russian and Belarusian universities, doctoral degrees will participate.
The conference program includes plenary sessions and the work of the five sections on the following topics:
1. The international dimension of the Union State.
2. Innovative interaction between Belarus and Russia as a basis for building the Union State.
3. The Union State and the mass media.
4. The role and significance of major religious denominations in the development of the Union State: the spiritual and moral, civil and patriotic, moral and ethical aspects.
5. Practical problems and prospects of joint activities of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus to overcome the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe within the Union State.
One of the main objectives of the conference is to enhance collaboration at all levels of government and public associations of Belarus and Russia in the programs and activities of the Union State.
The conference, that were held in St. Petersburg in 2000, 2002 and 2004, in Moscow in 2006, and in Gelendzhik in 2008, became a significant social and political event in the life of Russia and Belarus, have demonstrated a significant revitalization of the scientific communities of the two countries to optimize the union building, contributed to further development of Russian-Belarusian integration.
Union State? I didn’t know to much about this Union State, so I had to look it up. Wikipedia says that:
Originally, the Commonwealth of Russia and Belarus was formed on April 2, 1996. The basis of the union was strengthened on April 2, 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. Several further agreements were signed on December 25, 1998, with the intention of providing greater political, economic, and social integration.
Nevertheless, the nature of this original political entity remained exceedingly vague. Under pressure from his own political opponents, who advocated a reunion of the two states, and from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who sought to tie his exceedingly weak economy to Russia’s, then Russian President Boris Yeltsin initiated the creation of the current Union in order to harmonize the political and economic differences between the two nations. A similar proposal had been put forward by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1994, envisioning the founding of a “Eurasian Union”, but this proposal was never adopted or seriously pursued. The Treaty on the Creation of a Union State of Russia and Belarus was signed on December 8, 1999. The intention was to eventually achieve a federation like the Soviet Union; with a common president, parliament, flag, coat of arms, anthem, constitution, army, citizenship, currency, etc. The current Union was ratified by the Russian State Duma on December 22, 1999 and the National Assembly of Belarus on January 26, 2000. The latter is the date the Treaty and the Union officially came into effect.
It seems they are serious about this and other former Soviet Republics seem to be interested as well, among them, most recently Ukraine, on March 30, 2010.
It smacks a bit of a reconstitution of the Soviet Union – at least in geographical terms – though. From the portal of the Union State:
So do we need to pay attention to the possible expansion of Union State in the face of Ukraine? Certainly do. Even reliable western political scientists admit that Russia will not be a super state without Ukraine.
This means that Kiev joining together with Minsk and Moscow the Union State will allow not only developing this project but making it geopolitical subject on the political arena not only in Eurasia but in the whole world.
With Ukraine joining Union state the latter will have the market with approximately 200 million potential customers and this is a real impulse for development of economy of its member-states. Ukrainian economy significantly needs resources that it may get within the scopes of single economic space. That will allow Ukraine getting admission to Belarusian markets and that is more important to Russian market as well without brealing of WTO obligations.
We will see what comes of this. I certainly something I will follow.