Tuesday, 1 November 2011
CASE 357 - Union state
The Union State semi-officially known as Union State of Russia and Belarus is a supranational entity or superstate consisting of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus.
Originally, the Commonwealth of Belarus and Russia 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 vague. Under pressure from his own political opponents, who argued for a reunion of the two states, and from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who sought to tie his excessively 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.
Abkhazia: currently has observer status in parliamentary sessions. In informal statements, the prime ministers of the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (currently recognised only by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Nauru) have expressed interest in joining the Union with the Spokesman of the Union reciprocating this interest. No formal requests known so far.
The Union State, along with states that have expressed interest in joining the Union and other members of the CIS.
Kazakhstan has expressed interest in forming a separate customs union with Russia and Belarus by 2010. This Customs Union was formed as planned at the beginning of 2010. Kazakhstan has mentioned that it may join the Union State after some time.
Kyrgyzstan, as of June 2007, opposition in Kyrgyzstan, which has been locked in political turmoil, has initiated a nationwide referendum to join the union of Russia and Belarus.
Moldova In 2001, president of Moldova Vladimir Voronin announced right after his election that he has plans for Moldova to join the Union of Russia and Belarus. The coming to power of the Alliance for European Integration at the 2009 Moldovan elections has since shifted Moldovan interest towards the European Union.
Ukraine In response to speculation about Ukraine joining the Union, Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych came out with an official statement declaring that Ukraine is an independent sovereign state and this is not something that can be questioned by anyone in the government. According to a poll conducted by Russia's Levada Center in Ukraine in January-February of 2010, 93% of Ukrainians have a positive view of Russia, but only 22% of Ukrainians polled supported the idea of a union with Russia.
Serbia In 1999 the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia voted for the country to join the Union. In 2007 Tomislav Nikolic said during a speech that he wished that Serbia would strengthen its ties with and eventually join the Union State. Serbia has since submitted its application to the EU.
South Ossetia: currently has observer status in parliamentary sessions. In informal statements, Abkhazian and South Ossetian prime ministers have expressed interest in joining the Union with the Spokesman of the Union reciprocating this interest. No formal requests known so far.
Transnistria: in the Transnistrian referendum of 2006 97.2 % of the population voted for a reunion of Transnistria with the Russian Federation, which analysts say indicates a possibility that Transnistria might unilaterally ask to join the Union, once it is established. Already in spring 1998, 66.5 % of Transnistrian voters supported joining the Union of Russia and Belarus in a non-binding referendum by the Transnistrian state. However, not being recognised by either member, this is unlikely to happen in the near future.
Institutions and legal framework
The Treaty on the Creation of a Union State has established the following institutions:
A Supreme State Council, the highest authority in the Union State, made up of the Presidents, Prime Ministers and the heads of both chambers of the Parliaments of both countries. Each state has one vote in the Council, meaning effectively that all decisions must be unanimous.
A Council of Ministers, composed of the member states' Prime Ministers, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Economy, and Finance and the State Secretary of the Union.
A bicameral Union Parliament, comprising an elected House of Representatives, which contains 75 deputies from Russia and 28 from Belarus, elected by the general populace of each, and a House of the Union with an equal number of deputies (36) from each nation selected by their respective upper legislative houses. The Union Parliament has never been put into effect.
A Court of the Union, consisting of nine judges appointed for six-year terms. The Court of the Union was never established.
A House of Audit or Accounting Chamber, controlling the implementation of the budget.
Each member state retains its own sovereignty and international personality, meaning that Russia and Belarus are still fully responsible for their own internal affairs and external relations. The Union State cannot itself claim representation in other international organizations or overrule legislation or government decisions of its member states, except in cases specified by the Union Treaty. As such, the Union State most resembles a supranational confederation on the order of the African Union, or the Union of South American Nations.
Pavel Borodin is the current State Secretary of the Union. He was first appointed by the Supreme State Council on January 26, 2000 for a four-year term. In 2004 and 2008 his term was renewed for an additional four years.