Belarus’ dialogue with the West is ongoing, yet Minsk is not ready to step it up by making meaningful concessions
Last week, Belarus continued to communicate with the West within the established frameworks. Simultaneously, Minsk avoided fulfilling the requirements of the European Union and the United States, which could substantially improve political relations.
On March 5th, Belarusian Ambassador in Austria Elena Kupchina met Adviser For European and International affairs of the Federal President of Austria Bettina Kirnbauer. During the meeting, the diplomats discussed Belarus-EU relations in the view of Austria's EU presidency in H2 2018. According to official reports, they further committed to stepping up the dialogue. That being said, Austria has always shown pragmatism in relations with Belarus, and Minsk anticipates to put it to use during the Austrian chairmanship to promote its interests.
On March 6th, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko met with honorary consuls representing European states in Belarus. The honorary consuls of Austria, Iceland, Portugal, Croatia, the Czech Republic, as well as the Deputy Honorary Consul of Slovakia took part in the meeting. According to stingy ministry reports, the meeting touched on the current state of bilateral cooperation with the aforementioned states, prospects for further cooperation, and activities of honorary consuls in Belarus. Considering that Honorary Consuls usually promote trade and economic ties, the likely main focus of the meeting was on bilateral trade and investment, which would be in line with Belarus’ understanding of ‘constructive international relations’.
Meanwhile, Brussels continues to insist on the abolition of the death penalty in Belarus. The European External Action Service issued a statement in this regard following the execution of Kirill Kozachok. Minsk appears to be insufficiently motivated to make such a decision.
Overall, there was neither significant progress in relations with the West nor a rollback. Minsk continues the dialogue and cooperation on previously launched projects and within established communication frameworks.