Dictionary of communication
The Belarusian-German business dictionary has been presented in Minsk. It may seem an insignificant event in the context of international relations, but the book is indicative of the changing mood of our German partners. Clearly, businessmen are keen to communicate more clearly with local partners, creating stronger ties.
I’m convinced that a good step has been taken and I hope it will continue against a background of other major events taking place within the international arena. If Belarus were in ‘isolation’ then observers and political analysts would have spoken of a ‘foreign political breakthrough’ taking place. However, Belarus’ recent meetings with foreign delegations have been treated as commonplace.
Thinking of President Lukashenko’s visit to China, we can clearly see that bilateral relationships with this country have significantly intensified. Our article Express speed comes to Minsk explores recent meetings in Beijing.
International life is, of course, based on mutual benefits, and negotiations in Beijing have already yielded fruit. Meanwhile, Minsk has become a venue for major policies. Energy efficiency came under close scrutiny during the visit of the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chбvez, to Belarus. An alternative to dependence on Russian energy sources has been found in Minsk, as explored in Positive Energy Trends. Our policy is always to be pragmatic, yet can be substantial in effect when mutually beneficial. It’s logical to quote Mr. Chбvez in this respect, who noted, “The opportunity to bring oil from Venezuela to Europe’s heart, at your oil refineries, is strategically important to us. You are allowing us to create new routes for our oil trade and we’re proud that our ships can deliver our oil to Belarus.”
Minsk’s agreements send a vital signal to transit countries, through which oil is delivered to Belarus from Latin America. Mr. Chбvez’s visit was followed by that of the Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaitė. The closest port able to accept Venezuelan oil is located in Lithuania. The visit of the Lithuanian President to Belarus was commented upon by experts and political analysts, who remarked on the European accent of our foreign policy, where much needs to be transformed. Close Neighbour testifies to the landmark character of the Lithuanian President’s visit. After long years of pressure and attempts to isolate Minsk, the EU has come to the conclusion that such a format for relationships is hopeless. “For a decade, Europe has built a ‘Chinese Wall’ between itself and Belarus; it’s a wall which shouldn’t exist,” admitted Ms. Grybauskaitė, during her negotiations with Mr. Lukashenko. “Only co-operation will bring benefits to both the EU and Belarus.”
Today, the EU, concerned for stability and security along its borders, needs Belarus no less than Belarus needs the EU. This is proven by the country’s inclusion within the European Eastern Partnership programme. The long-term relevancy of this position was notable by the recent visit to Minsk by the Foreign Ministers of Poland and Germany, Radosław Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle. Undoubtedly, they reflected the EU’s policy towards Belarus at Minsk meetings, as explored in From Neighbourhood to Partnership.
Minsk Forum, held in November, was a successful venue for Belarusian-European dialogue. The Forum, which launched in 1997, has been organised for the 13th time. Some would call this an unlucky figure but the organisers were convinced otherwise — even rather optimistic about its usefulness. Much was spoken of the ‘economisation’ of relations. The Belarusian economy is going through a special period of structural reform — only possible with the aid of new investments, technologies and advanced experience. Our German partners possess all these, so their assistance could be significant.
Evidently, Belarus has the right to expect more decisive steps from the EU; Schengen visas were compared with the Berlin Wall at the Forum. The ‘Schengen Wall’ is virtual, yet quite tangible, and should be removed to aid European integration. A ‘wait-and-see approach’ is inappropriate. Without Belarus, and other Eastern European states yet to join the Schengen zone, the configuration of contemporary Europe is incomplete.
The first ever German-Belarusian dictionary was presented at Minsk Forum and should aid the development of pan-European communication. It’s a good example to follow.
BY Viktor Kharkov,