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QUESTION: Moscow will host an EAEC summit soon. Will you describe the organisation in greater detail, please? What is its composition and why was it created?

ANSWER: The first step towards creating the Eurasian Economic Community was made in 1995 when Russia and Belarus signed the agreement on the Customs Union, which Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan later joined.

A major step in the development of cooperation was the signing of the 1996 treaty on promoting economic and humanitarian integration, which set the goal of creating "a community of integrated states" by "gradually deepening integration in the economy, science, education, culture, the social and other spheres with die respect for the sovereignty of the sides." It also stipulated the coordination of the foreign policies and joint protection of the borders of the member states.

On February 26, 1999 Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed a Treaty on the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space, which stipulated three stages of integration.

The first stage provided for the full application of the free trade regime, in particular the non-use of tariff and quantity limitations in mutual trade, the introduction of a single system of collecting excise duties, and the removal of administrative, fiscal and other barriers hindering the free movement of commodities. The second stage provided for the creation of a customs union, which entails a common customs territory, a common customs tariff, renunciation of customs control on the internal borders and standardisation of the mechanisms of economic and trade regulation. The third stage provided for the creation of a common economic space, which entails a common economic policy and the creation of a common market of services, labour and capital, the standardisation of national laws and the pursuit of a coordinated social and research-technological policy.

Seeking to fulfil these tasks, the presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan signed the treaty on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Community on October 10, 2000. It provided the base for raising the cooperation of the five states to a new level. All signatories ratified the treaty and it came into force on May 30, 2001.

The heads of the five states will attend the Moscow session of the Interstate Council, the supreme agency of the community. The president of Moldova has been invited to attend, too, as Moldova plans to join the EAEC.

QUESTION: What are the current priorities of the EAEC?

ANSWER: The current priority is to ensure the practical collaboration of the member states with a view to creating a full-scale customs union and common economic space. Another major task is to step up coordination when elaborating a harmonised stand of the member countries on the issue of admission to the World Trade Organisation.

The member countries are also working on a common customs tariff and plan to take additional measures to harmonise customs tariffs and in this way create better conditions for the further development of foreign trade.

Border security is becoming a question of special significance in the current geopolitical conditions. This is why the five member states plan to adopt a document on "The Guidelines of the Border Policy of States Members of the Eurasian Economic Community" elaborated by the council on border issues.

QUESTION: Has the economic development of the five states registered positive changes since they have joined in the EAEC?

ANSWER: The progress of integration processes is facilitating stabilisation and an improvement in the economic situation in the member countries. In particular, the GDP growth rate in the EAEC countries amounted to over 8% in 2001, industrial output grew by 9% and agricultural production, by nearly 10%. This positive trend has not abated in 2002. In January and February this year, the GDP grew 3.1% in Belarus, 13.2% in Kazakhstan, 2.9% in Russia and 8.2% in Tajikistan as compared to the first two months in 2001.

QUESTION: Can the EAEC expand by admitting new members?

ANSWER: The EAEC is becoming attractive for many countries. In particular, the Moscow session of the Interstate Council is expected to make a decision on granting Moldova the status of observer in the EAEC with a possibility of its subsequent admission to the community.

The approval of the Regulations on the Status of Observer and Regulations on the Conditions and Procedure for the Admission of New Member States to the Eurasian Economic Community will confirm the open nature of the EAEC as an international economic organisation.

QUESTION: In which directions will the EAEC legal base develop?

ANSWER: The EAEC leading agencies highlight the development of its organisational and legal foundation. A major step in this direction will be the adoption of a decision on the approval of the regulations on the Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (IPA) at the Moscow session of the Interstate Council. The IPA task will be to provide the legal foundation for the operation of the EAEC, to harmonise (encourage rapprochement, standardise) the national legislation of the member states and gear them to the treaties signed within the framework of the EAEC.

Russia as an initiator of the creation of the EAEC plans to act energetically and consistently with a view to strengthening this integration organisation in the interests of the member states and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) as a whole.

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