Belarus-EU: the policy of normalisation pays off
On June 29th, 2018 the opening of the memorial to the victims of Nazism in Trascianiec was held. On this occasion, for the first time in the history of Belarus’ diplomatic relations, the presidents of Austria and Germany visited Minsk. This event was a symbolic breakthrough in the Belarusian-European relations, especially given the protracted negotiations on visa and trade issues. The visit of the Austrian Federal President was of particular importance due to the Austrian Chairmanship in the European Union in H2 2018.
During separate bilateral meetings with high guests, President Lukashenka emphasised the great contribution of both countries to the normalization of relations with Belarus. According to the Belarusian president, Austria played a significant role in strengthening security in Europe. Therefore, Belarus would be interested in having "a solid dialogue on developing the process of ensuring security in the region". Lukashenka also announced for the first time his future visit to Vienna.
At the meeting with German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the parties agreed to create a joint historical commission with the purpose of forming a common memory culture. That said, Steinmeier noted that his visit was possible, because Belarus extended her hand for reconciliation. Before his visit to Minsk, the German president was interviewed by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; he said that "thanks to this visit, there will be a chance to somewhat take the country and its people out of the shadow of the Soviet past."
Overall, Minsk’s strategy of a gradual and progressive normalisation with the West primarily in the spheres of common interests pays off. The building of trust and the accumulation of a positive interaction history have brought relations at a new level: high-level visits. This, in turn, could give momentum to normalisation in other spheres.