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Evident opportunities based on pragmatism

Belarusian-European dialogue vital to positive dynamics of contact
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is eager to continue normalising relations and advancing interaction with the European Union, while taking into account our national interests. Speaking at a session tackling issues of Belarusian-European liaisons, he noted positive dynamics in our relations and greater intensity of contacts, as well as an improved general atmosphere. 

“The European Union’s decision to lift most of the sanctions on Belarus in February 2016 opens up new opportunities for advancing our interaction. The step clearly indicates readiness on the side of the European Union and its member states to invigorate pragmatic co-operation with Belarus,” said the Head of State. “This suits us absolutely. I’ve already said, during meetings with representatives of the United States, that we don’t need political bias or excessive politics in processes that should not be politicised. We need pragmatic relations.”

Pragmatism is vital to co-operation; without it, interaction was visibly stalling, and dialogue was politicised, at the expense of content. The conversation was as if split into two parallel paths: business on one side and inter-state contacts on the other side, without intersecting. Meanwhile, the EU accounts for around 25 percent of Belarus’ sales turnover, which is of indisputable merit of business, based on laws of pragmatic decency: a quality sometimes lacking in political dialogue. However, the situation is changing and the President wishes to show that Minsk sees this and is appreciative. He notes, “It’s important to continue our policy aimed at fully normalising relations and advancing interaction with the EU, in the context of our national interests. This primarily refers to reinforcing state sovereignty and independence, as well as the security and stability of Belarus.”

Mr. Lukashenko underlines that Belarus won’t choose between alliance with the West or Russia, cajoled by the European Union or the USA. “We don’t need such negotiation parameters. It would be the worst choice we’d have to make,” asserts the President.

“I think that Europe understands this perfectly well. At least, the issue was not raised during my talks with representatives of the USA or Western Europe. At last, everyone understands that the European Union needs Belarus to pursue a multiple-vector policy,” believes the Belarusian leader. “It’s our destiny to sit between two centres of power. We can’t avoid it, or ignore either of them. Russians are our brothers, whether some like it or not, and our relations with them should be consistent with this fact.”

Mr. Lukashenko is keen to see Belarus’ relations with the EU advance pragmatically, taking advantage of advanced technologies and cheaper financial resources. However, he won’t ignore opportunities in the huge Russian market and that of Eurasia, as well as in China. 

The Head of State notes that a number of issues remain to be addressed in Belarus’ relations with the EU, saying, “These certainly need to be taken care of.” Mr. Lukashenko wishes to analyse new opportunities for Belarus and to determine the best path forward for trade, investment, and finance, as well as joint counteraction of trans-boundary threats.

For the last few years, Belarus has been negotiating its signing of a number of agreements with the EU. In this respect, Mr. Lukashenko wonders how far negotiations on draft agreements have advanced, regarding simplified visa procedures. He asserts that it’s vital to discuss common approaches to the further liberalisation of visa regulations between the EU and Belarus. 

Belarus and the EU are mulling over the development and improvement of interaction in other fields, including security at borders. Belarus’ major contribution to pan-European security is helping prevent smuggling and illegal migration from the East to the West.

At the end of the session, the President gave instructions to bolster trade-economic and investment co-operation with the EU and other Western partners, aiming to build solid collaboration with European and international financial institutions.

By Vasily Kharitonov
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