On September 19, 2003, the presidents of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine signed an agreement in Yalta on “The Concept of a Single Economic Space” (SES). The idea behind this agreement was initially announced by these presidents in Moscow on February 23, 2003. High-level groups, led by vice prime ministers, were established to negotiate the draft documents, which were signed on August 17 in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The governments of Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan supported the drafts completely. The government of Ukraine introduced a proviso that the SES must adhere to the Ukrainian constitution and its strategic goal of European integration. Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma thus signed the agreement with the understanding that it should correspond to the constitution of Ukraine. The documents signed in Yalta are framing documents, they do not establish any concrete regimes or institutions. Despite this, the very idea of the SES has led to the most intensive foreign policy debates of recent memory, especially in Ukraine. […]