Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 217

In late October, the Russian government adopted a resolution calling for the harmonization of Russian and Belarusan law in a number of economic areas. Special emphasis was placed on privatization, price regulation, investment policy, agricultural reform, and the regulation of foreign economic activity. While most of these changes are to be made in Belarusan law, some changes are to be made in Russian law as well.

Under the rubric of implementing the "economic union" agreed upon by the two governments last year, the Russian cabinet on October 22 adopted Resolution No. 1345, prepared by the Ministry of Economy, "On Measures to Implement the Program of Synchronization and Unified Direction of Economic Reforms in the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation." (Russian agencies, November 10) The document envisages the Moscow-directed coordination of economic reforms in both countries, with special emphasis on the harmonization of civil law, land law, and competition policy, as well as banking, currency, securities, tax, customs, and labor legislation. While Minsk, in most cases, would adopt Moscow’s laws, in a few instances — in competition and foreign trade, for example — Russia would apparently have to amend its laws to bring them into compliance with those of Belarus.

Since the rule of law remains underdeveloped in both countries, it is not clear what result such efforts should be expected to yield. In general terms, the standardization of Russian and Belarusan law can be expected to promote reform in Belarus, since legal reform efforts in Russia are generally more advanced than in other CIS countries. On the other hand, these changes are being introduced along side efforts by Russian financial-industrial groups to strengthen their control over Belarus’s energy infrastructure. As such, they could result in significant reductions in Belarus’s economic and political autonomy. Harmonizing Russian competition and foreign-trade law with Belarusan legislation could also mean a step back for reform in both areas.

Shevardnadze Lashes Out at Chernomyrdin.