Prioritisation is essential

‘Better a bad peace than a good quarrel…’ This expression is never likely to lose its significance, unless military conflict becomes a thing of the past…
‘Better a bad peace than a good quarrel…’ This expression is never likely to lose its significance, unless military conflict becomes a thing of the past… 

All aspirations towards peace are welcome. In this context, the Minsk Agreements on settling military confrontation in Ukraine are a good example.

A year ago, the Minsk Agreements were signed as a starting point to settling the conflict in Ukraine. A sleepless night occurred in Minsk, with heads of European states Angela Merkel, François Hollande, Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko making history.

There have been various assessments of the Minsk process; regardless of the tone, participants of the conflict and observers coincide in their belief that there is no alternative to this mechanism of settlement. One year on, Minsk has been again the meeting place for ‘Normandy Four’ experts, with analysts, politologists and representatives of research centres and political funds, from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France, gathering for the international conference, Minsk Dialogue, to discuss achievements and future challenges. Minsk Points the Way Towards Peace explores this topic.

Time runs on, with two months of the new year already behind us. Of course, some steps have been taken, but analysts continue their work, with security, diversification of the economy and the enhancement of our status as a peacekeeper remaining key aspects for Belarusian foreign policy in 2016. In the context of Russian-Belarusian relations, special attention will be paid to jointly overcoming the crisis faced by our two economies, especially against the background of a worsening foreign economic market environment and a drop in world oil prices. Minsk and Moscow plan to implement a package of anti-crisis measures as part of the Union State.

Experts believe that the major risks for Belarus lie in the economic sphere, so this year’s top task for official Minsk is to diversify sales markets for Belarusian goods as widely as possible. Marketing departments of enterprise-exporters will concentrate efforts on this, as will the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Foreign Ministry. Moreover, this year, the state plans to reform and modernize the economy, aiming to raise the inflow of foreign investments and technologies.

Belarus is facing a difficult period in the world of politics and trade, despite having considerably increased its status regionally via its peace-making efforts. Having hosted negotiations over the Ukrainian crisis, offering a neutral military-political position, it has earned a reputation as a pragmatic peacemaker and will continue its work in this sphere through 2016.

New approaches are required and Minsk is keen to intensify its economic interaction with western countries. In this respect, the new agreement on partnership and co-operation between Belarus and the EU is a promising step and won’t be to the detriment of our obligations as part of the EAEU (which remains a major foreign political and economic priority for Belarus).

Minsk hopes that its EAEU partners will take a more serious attitude towards the anti-crisis plan being proposed by Belarus, which chaired this integration structure last year. Moreover, Belarus also pins great hopes on participation in the Chinese initiative of the Economic Belt Silk Road. After the visit to Belarus by China’s President, Xi Jinping, last May, our country was given a strategic role in implementing this major project in Eastern Europe. Meanwhile, the ‘integration of integrations’ idea remains acute for the Belarusian foreign political agenda. Belarus will build its relations with other integration structures and solve acute problems, including within the Russia-Ukraine-EU triangle. Co-operation, rather than confrontation, is the way forward to a successful outcome regarding the crises being faced by many countries.
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