Belarus’ Western policy activity is high as ever
Last week was very eventful for Belarus’ western policy direction. Amid lingering uncertainty in relations with Russia, Minsk is striving to step up the normalization process with the West.
The most important event last week was a three-day working visit by Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius to Minsk after a five-year break. The visit was prompted by both, the Belarusian authorities’ desire to diversify oil imports (Lithuania is among the possible transit states) and a series of visits by senior US officials, which served as a signal for their allies in the region. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s press office has emphasized that during the talks the parties “particularly focused on the current state of trade, economic and transport-transit cooperation”. In terms of politics, the defrosting of relations with Vilnius was an important event for Minsk, since the latter has long sought to lift the Lithuanian veto on signing the partnership priorities with the European Union, which would expand the possibilities for cooperation between Belarus and the EU, including the financial implications. This visit is likely to become a turning point in bilateral relations.
On February 4th, a delegation of the German-Belarusian parliamentary group in the Bundestag was in Minsk. The delegation met with Belarusian MPs and the Foreign Minister. The parties have confirmed the mutual interest in further expanding bilateral ties.
On the same day, Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Dapkyunas met with the Director of NATO’s Arms Control, Disarmament and WMD Non-Proliferation Centre, William Alberque.
On February 5th-6th, Foreign Minister Makei made the first official visit in the history of bilateral relations to Bulgaria. The Ministry reported that a significant part of the negotiations was devoted to further cooperation between Belarus and the European Union.
On February 7th, Suma Chakrabarti, President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), visited Minsk. He met with President Lukashenka and Prime Minister Rumas. In the coming weeks, the EBRD aims to complete negotiations with the Belarusian authorities on the acquisition of a stake in the Belinvestbank. In 2019, the EBRD set a record in its activities in Belarus. It invested over EUR 390 million in 24 projects in private and public sectors, enabling Belarus to rank 9th among other states in terms of size of cooperation with the EBRD in 2019. Chakrabarti has projected that in a few years Belarus may become among the top 5 EBRD partners in the world. In his opinion, Belarus is becoming more and more appealing in the eyes of the bank’s shareholders.