The status of the proposed union between Belarus and Russia [BYS33313.E]

On 8 December 1999 President Yeltsin of Russia and President Lukashenko of Belarus signed a "third union agreement in as many years" to create a confederation between the two countries (AP 8 Dec. 1999; BBC 8 Dec. 1999; NYT 9 Dec. 1999). Under the terms of the agreement, the two countries would create a High Council, which would include the presidents, prime ministers and speakers of parliament of the two countries (BBC 8 Dec. 1999). In addition, the two leaders agreed in principle that the two countries would have a joint currency (BBC 8 Dec. 1999; Interfax 8 Dec. 1999; AP 8 Dec. 1999; NYT 9 Dec. 1999), a joint tax system (AP 8 Dec. 1999; BBC 14 Dec. 1999) and a joint military force to include the Moscow Military District and the armed forces of Belarus (Interfax 8 Dec. 1999; AP 8 Dec. 1999). The treaty calls for the adoption by both countries of a joint military doctrine in 2000 (ITAR-TASS 10 Dec. 1999).

Although Russians and Belarusians would share citizenship in the new political entity created by the union, they would retain their respective Russian and Belarusian citizenship and the two countries would retain their existing national governments (NYT 9 Dec. 1999).

The following quote from the Russian news agency ITAR-TASS outlines the main points in the treaty, and the projected time-frame for their implementation:

- it is envisaged to steadily level out, beginning from 2000, all the main macroeconomic indicators and to pursue a common structural policy;
- an interstate agreement will be signed in the fourth quarter of 1999/first quarter of 2000 on the introduction of a common monetary unit and on a single emission centre. All the work linked with the introduction of a single monetary unit is planned to be fully completed by the end of 2005;
- it is planned to draw up in 2000 a programme to ensure a single information space;
- a single tax policy will be pursued as from 2001 on the basis of unified legislation;
- it is planned to adopt a law on the property of the united state in 2001-02;
- the formation and execution of the united state's budget is to proceed by stages in 2000-04;
- the formation of a single trade and customs-tariff policy vis-a-vis third countries, international organizations and associations is to be completed in 2005;
- it is planned to complete in 2001 the formation of a single securities market and to set up institutions for their emission and for the regulation of the share market;
- the implementation of a single prices formation policy will begin in the second half of 2000;
- it is planned to begin in 2000 a phased reorganization and unification of the power and transport systems of the two countries and also to pursue a single policy in geodesy and cartography;
- it is planned to complete in 2002 the formation of a single market of services, and in 2003 - a single policy in standardization, metrology and assessment of correspondence.
The formation of a single science-and-technology space is expected to be completed in 2005.
The programme also fixes the deadlines for transition to a joint policy in the sphere of ecological security, including the liquidation of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster (2000); time limits for the implementation of a concerted policy in labour protection, social insurance of the population and pensioning (2000); time limits for the adoption of a single military doctrine of the united state (2000); time limits for the implementation of the long-range strategy for mutually advantageous border cooperation (step by step, beginning from 1999); and time limits for the unification of the legislation relating to the work of law-enforcement bodies and special services (1999-2001) (8 Dec. 1999).

On 13 December 1999 the lower house of the Russian legislature ratified the treaty of union with Belarus, by a margin of 382 to 2, 3 deputies abstaining (RFE/RL 13 Dec. 1999; Russia Today 14 Dec. 1999). On 14 December 1999 the lower house of the Belarusian legislature ratified the treaty (BBC 14 Dec. 1999; RFE/RL 14 Dec. 1999).

It should be noted that commentators have expressed the view that this treaty is "largely symbolic;" Belarusian President Lukashenko expressed disappointment at the treaty, which did not go far enough, in his view (BBC 14 Dec. 1999; NYT 9 Dec. 1999); and Russian President Yeltsin pointed out that under the treaty Russia and Belarus would remain separate countries (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Associated Press (AP). 8 December 1999. AM Cycle. Vladimir Isachenkov. "Russia and Belarus Sign Another Union Agreement. (NEXIS)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 14 December 1999. "Belarusian Parliament Ratifies Union Treaty." [Accessed 14 Dec. 1999]

_____. 8 December 1999. "Russia and Belarus Form Confederation." [Accessed 14 Dec. 1999]

Interfax News Agency. 8 December 1999. "Russia, Belarus to Set Up Joint Army Group: Lukashenko." (NEXIS)

ITAR-TASS. 10 December 1999. Anatoly Yurkin. "Russia, Belarus to Adopt Military Doctrine in 2000." (FBIS-SOV-1999-1210 10 Dec. 1999/WNC)

_____. 8 December 1999. "Agency Outlines the Main Stages of Formation of Russia-Belarus Union State." (BBC Summary 10 Dec. 1999/NEXIS)

New York Times. 9 December 1999. Michael Wines. "Russia and Belarus Agree to Join in a Confederation." (NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 14 December 1999. "Belarusian Legislature Ratifies Belarus-Russia Treaty." [Accessed 14 Dec. 1999]

_____. 13 December 1999. "Duma Ratifies Russia-Belarus Treaty." [Accessed 14 Dec. 1999]

Russia Today. 14 December 1999. "Russian Duma Blocks Start-2, Backs Belarus Union." [Accessed 14 Dec. 1999]