Engagement with the West continues, however old challenges remain
Last week, there were several high level meetings between the Belarusian and European officials, who discussed political and economic issues. It is evidence that Minsk has retained interest in the normalisation with the West, and equally, that the interest of Western states in improving contacts with Minsk has enhanced.
On October 1st, 2018, Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Head of the Diplomatic Service Sir Simon McDonald visited Minsk. His visit followed other bilateral meetings, including with Minister of State for Europe and the Americas Alan Duncan in Minsk in September 2017 and Foreign Minister Makey’s meetings in the UK in March 2018. McDonald held talks with Belarus' Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko and Finance Minister Maxim Yermolovich.
On October 4th, in Brussels, Deputy Foreign Minister Kravchenko took part in a meeting of senior officials of the EU Eastern Partnership Programme (EaP) and EU member states. At the meeting, the participants evaluated progress in implementing EaP priorities until 2020. As usual, the Belarusian representative expressed Belarus’ interest in developing pragmatic cooperation within the EaP with the focus on tangible economic results and spoke about the need to boost trade and facilitate access of the EaP states to the EU market.
On October 4th, Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgeny Shestakov paid a working visit to the Czech Republic, he met with the Czech Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, Eduard Muřický. On the same day, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Belarus, which referred to the deteriorated media situation and the persecution of journalists. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry called the resolution “another artificial set of clichés”.
There was no progress in negotiations on visa facilitation and partnership priorities with the EU. Minsk continued to establish mutually beneficial bilateral contacts with some EU member-states and European financial institutions, yet it did not manage to complete negotiations on agreements which affect political relations in one way or another.