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23 May, 2008 06:22

CIS meets amid doubts about future

The heads of the CIS countries are due to meet in Minsk, as doubts remain about the organisation’s relevance. Eleven former Soviet republics make up the Commonwealth of Independent States. Economic co-operation, migration and crime control are the key is

So far, the CIS countries don’t have any long-term plans on their common future. They exist only as a potential, virtual structure but not as a real mechanism of co-operation.
This virtual reality has recently faced a number of serious crash-tests, including energy. Most of the CIS members are either supply or transit oil and gas and as the allies fight over prices and routes, Europe – the main recipient – anxiously watches.
In the most recent spat, Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko found a new trump card to show to the EU. Should Europe follow in Washington's footsteps and support or impose sanctions against Belarus – Lukashenko was very clear in his response.
“Western countries are trying to blame us and teach us. Why is it that you need to do it? I don't understand. Today in such a tense situation when energy resources determine life, you start destroying the bridge, the bridge under which the oil and gas river flows,” he said.
And hints like these certainly won’t win the Belarusian President any brownie points. But it’s not all that straightforward. The EU, having found itself more or less in the middle – stands to gain, not just lose.

“Blaming Belarus for an authoritarian regime, Europe at the same time is always receiving economic benefits from its strained relations with Russia. Take for example last year’s oil conflict – Europe saved several hundred billion dollars during the first quarter of 2007. And it would definitely like to have similar benefits again late,” Kirill Koktysh, a political analyst, said.