Russia and Belarus have agreed 90% of the in-depth integration program, Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin said on June, 15 after holding talks with his Belarusian counterpart Dzmitry Krutoy in Moscow. This week, the two Prime Ministers are expected to meet and work out a roadmap of the integration.
Earlier, Russia’s Central Bank Сhairperson Elvira Nabiullina confirmed that negotiations on adopting a single currency were in progress, but she did not go into detail.
“As far as the talks with Belarus are concerned, they are really being conducted, but at the initial stage. I would like to recall that the Union Treaty had an item about a possible change-over to a common currency,” she said.
Minsk has not commented on the Russian top official’s statement yet. And what do Belarusians think of such a move?
“It would simplify our relations, including financial.”
“There will be additional costs. The banknotes we have now will be withdrawn from circulation; new ones will have to be printed. What for? “
“The common financial system will become Russia’s new leverage over Belarus.”
“It will mean that we will be a single state, which I don’t want.”
“We are for our sovereignty. We say no to any single currency.”
There are also purely economic arguments against the financial unification with Russia, experts say.
“The development of Russia’s economy stalled is slowing down, so is that of Belarus. And the forecasts are discouraging. Therefore, one can hardly expect that this would-be currency will be stable,” economist Leanid Zlotnikau warned.
According to political analyst Valery Karbalevich, the Kremlin might push for the Russian ruble’s being the single currency, which would lead to Belarus’s losing a significant part of its independence. In this case, its freedom of maneuver in conducting autonomous macroeconomic policy would limit to that of some Russian region.
Interestingly, a week ago, minister Oreshkin raised the topic of the talks on the single currency at a forum in St. Petersburg and stressed that they were at the ‘presidential level’. On June 14, Putin and Lukashenka met during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Bishkek, but it was not reported whether they had discussed the issue. Such closedness and even secrecy of the foreign policy pursued by the authorities is a sign of dictatorship – both in Moscow and Minsk, Mr Karbalevich believes. Alyaksandr Lukashenka behaves as a medieval feudal prince who never discusses policy issues with his ‘subjects’, the expert added.
According to official reports, the leaders of Russia and Belarus leaders were not engaged in the ‘integration’ negotiations. Having a short conversation about issues du jour, the parties agreed upon a meeting in the near future.