WORK ON COMMON ECONOMIC SPACE PROCEEDING AS PLANNED

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MOSCOW, October 25 (RIA Novosti) - Work on drafting agreements on forming a Common Economic Space (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan) is going as planned, said Viktor Khristenko, the minister of industry and energy and the special presidential representative for the development of integration cooperation with CIS countries.

"Of course, there are some delays," he said after a session of the high level group on forming the common economic space in Kiev, "but all the documents, including 29 priority documents, will be drafted by December - the scheduled meeting of the four presidents. We hope to receive instructions to open the negotiation process on the first package of the agreements."

"The work on the documents to create a Common Economic Space has already produced positive results," he said. The minister noted that trade between the common economic space countries "is growing absolutely differently from the earlier period."

In 2003, Russia's trade with all CIS countries totaled $30 billion, whereas this year Russia's trade with the three common economic space countries alone will presumably stand at $38 billion - Ukraine ($15 billion), Belarus ($15 billion), and Kazakhstan ($8 billion).

"Therefore, we believe that all four countries have serious intentions and that the prospects are sound," he said. "Nobody wants to leave the chosen path, and business' reaction is positive. We believe that it is sign that can be used in assessing the activity of all the sides in the creation of a common economic space."

According to him, the formation of the legal base is accompanied by the creation of conditions for discussing large projects with specific countries. "In the first place, it implies infrastructure and everything that is connected with the physical foundation for the creation of a common market," he said. "I am speaking of roads, railroads, pipelines, electric lines and the creation of a common energy market, because all our energy systems have already been working in parallel."

The minister said that "within the framework of the four countries, we will develop our energy systems with an eye to big diversified projects."

He also said the process of drafting documents to simplify travel within the common economic space was discussed at the session. "Before the end of the year," he said, "a package of five agreements will be ready. They will simplify the regime for movement within the common economic space countries. With this goal, we will use joint checkpoints, unify border crossing procedures for people with currency, vehicles, and so on."

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