1. Lukashenko and Yeltsin: Twins, Brothers?
A strict legal approach governing the signing of the
union treaty is the only alternative to political voluntarism
rife with harsh consequences for the peoples of both countries.
We can explain what we are talking about, by turning to
the problem of the presidential proxies of Lukashenko
On October 27, 1999, the Yabloko faction refused to listen
to Lukashenko's speech in the State Duma. This is easy
to explain: a parliament that respects both itself and
its country should not grant a platform to a man appropriating
power through legal manipulation.
This is how we assess Lukashenko's actions, when he extended
his presidential term by adopting the Constitution on
a referendum in autumn 1996. If Russia considers itself
a civilised country, it must refuse to recognise such
a way of prolonging the term of office, where the electorate
could only really vote for one candidate.
Proxies can only be confirmed at free elections. Byelorussia
did not hold any such elections. Consequently, after July
20, 1999, Lukashenko was transformed from president into
a private individual who illegally holds onto power.
Yabloko principally rejects the possibility of signing
a Union Treaty between the two states with a private individual.
First of all, any citizen and/or ruling body (of a RF
subject) can through court prove the legal invalidity
of such a union. Secondly, such a union would fail to
achieve international recognition and, consequently, would
not be able to conduct any foreign policy. And thirdly,
and this is probably most important here: by endorsing
the usurping of power by Lukashenko, the majority in the
Duma create the pre-requisites for the same actions by
Allegations that Yeltsin is going to use some sly trick
to retain power after 2000 have been circulating for a
long time now. If he makes such an attempt, the parties
who rendered such a warm reception to Lukashenko on October
27 cannot object to it. For why shouldn't Yeltsin do the
same thing that was welcomed in the case of Lukashenko?
Yabloko will not be among these parties.
2. In favour of a union which does not involve tricks
and liesYabloko fears that the adventure-populist version
of the union will turn out to be an infringement of Russia's
national interests. Such an infringement has already occurred.
The customs' union between our countries functions in
such a way that Russia cannot check if the volume of goods
flowing into Russia through the Byelorussian border with
third countries corresponds to payments transferred to
Russia by Byelorussian customs.
According to expert estimates, Russia's budget annually
loses several dozens billion roubles. The majority in
the Duma has constantly asked where we can obtain money
to pay wages to budget employees, teachers and doctors.
At the same time it has hypocritically endorsed the huge
black hole in the customs' union with Byelorussia. If
a number of articles of the official draft treaty come
into force (for example, on credit, monetary and tax policies),
then Russia's losses will be disastrous.
This irresponsible approach with a clear anti-Russian
stance is countered by Yabloko's alternative - a draft
Agreement on the Economic Union between our countries
that Yabloko devised as early as 1997. This document differs
principally from Yeltsin-Lukashenko's text: the official
draft proposes the simultaneous construction of a whole
range of the political and economic institutions of the
Union without analysing the technical details of this
process; Yabloko's draft presents a detailed plan for
building joint economic mechanisms, so that further political
integration has a firm basis.
In other words, Yeltsin and Lukashenko want to build
immediately all parts of the building very rapidly and
roughly. Yabloko proposes starting with the foundation
and basic elements, built in accordance with all the requirements
of the art of construction.
3. Yeltsin-Lukashenko's draft represents a path to legal
chaos and political arbitrariness
At first sight the draft Agreement, published in the
Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper, represents ordinary legal
hack-work. Let us take, for example, the point on dividing
jurisdiction between the Union and the participating state.
The draft drives us onto a bulky and perplexed legal system
that will look as follows on Russian territory:
Today relations between the RF and its subjects are too
confused. The entry into force of the Agreement will bring
even more disorder. For example, according to the Constitution
of the Russian Federation, the tax policy falls under
the joint jurisdiction of the RF and its subjects. However,
under the Agreement it falls within the exclusive jurisdiction
of the Union state.
The list of differences could be continued. Russia will
not be able to conduct its own budget policy, which will
be a derivative form of the Union's; at the same time
the tax revenues will be still received by the national
budgets of Russia and Byelorussia, which will subsequently
pay agreed deductions to the Union budget (Article 31,
It remains unclear how the Union will develop and adopt
its own budget under these circumstances. At least not
in the revenue part: that will depend totally on the will
of the national parliaments.
Here we witness a very strange division of jurisdiction:
revenue policies are handled by the Union, while expenditure
policies (including expenditure on the maintenance of
the organs of the Union) remain within the jurisdiction
of the states.
In other words, the Union will decide how to earn money,
and its constituent states will decide how to spend it.
We can only wish that anyone other than the Russian and
Byelorussian nations live with such a system of state
The political part of the Agreement looks less absurd.
Here we can detect someone's firm and persistent will.
The citizens of the RF are virtually offered the chance
to test the experience of their Byelorussian neighbours,
who have been living in an authoritarian regime decorated
by the entourage of the Soviet era. The Supreme State
Council (SSC) is declared to be the "supreme authority
of the Union State" (Article 33, Para 1), whereas
the Parliament of the Union State represents only "a
representative and legislative authority", devoid
of any rights to control the SSC. The SSC has the competence
to "decide the most important issues pertaining to
the development of the Union State" (Article 34,
This means that its jurisdiction is virtually unlimited.
The SSC is also granted the right "to issue decrees,
resolutions and directives within its jurisdiction (Article
34, Para 3). Thus, instead of the laws on the most "important
issues", we will have decrees and directives of the
At the same time the SSC enjoys the right of legislative
initiative (Article 42, Para 1). But does it need it,
if it can easily pass a decree or directive? The political
system of the Union stipulated in the draft Agreement
resembles too closely that of Byelorussia and is far more
barbarian in nature than the present Russian system. A
collective boss represented by the SSC gains power, which
exceeds considerably the present proxies of both the State
Duma and the President of the RF. All this contradicts
the present Constitution of the Russian Federation.
I do not want to use strong words here, but I cant help
feeling that the Agreement in its present form is conscientiously
targeted at establishing a state of legal chaos required
both by Yeltsin and Lukashenko to implement their deeply
personal political plots.