Belarus could take major step towards integration with Russia, Lukashenko claims
Moscow and Minsk could decide to be bound by a single currency in an effort to boost trade and strengthen ties between the two members of the so-called Union State, Belarus’ embattled leader, Alexander Lukashenko, has said.
Speaking about the prospects of economic integration in an interview with RIA Novosti published on Wednesday, Lukashenko said, “There’s the Russian ruble… Everyone wants a single currency.”
According to him, a past agreement with former Russian president Boris Yeltsin said that if the two countries shared a currency, “it wouldn't be the Belarusian ruble or the Russian ruble, but a different, third currency. But seeing as we have the ruble, and you have the ruble, why make something up and call it [something else] or what-have-you? Yes, it will be the ruble.”
“We’ll have to get to the currency step-by-step,” he added.
In 1999, Lukashenko signed an agreement with Moscow creating the Union State of Russia and Belarus and outlining a major plan for integration of the two nations. The agreement described the establishment of a joint parliament, cabinet, courts, and other shared institutions, which would have effectively made the two countries a unified state. However, the process has stalled in recent years despite constant talks.
Nonetheless, Belarus and Russia have remained close partners, with agreements on visa-free travel and economic partnership. In November, Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into force a range of measures designed to deepen ties between their nations, including a revised Union State military doctrine and a plan for a single gas market and common financial zone.
Merging the two countries into a single state, however, “isn’t on the agenda at all,” Lukashenko told CNN in October.
However, asked on Wednesday whether he saw any limits to integration, Lukashenko answered, “There are no sorts of limits to any process. It sounds philosophical, but it’s true. No limits whatsoever.”