The EU is ready to continue rapprochement with Belarus despite the parliamentary elections results
While the OSCE was harsh in its assessments of the parliamentary elections results in Belarus, the EU response was charitable. The joint visit of the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Finland to Minsk last week was an important sign of the EU’s readiness to continue the normalization process with Belarus.
Foreign Ministers’ visit was being prepared long before the elections and their outcomes. However, the visit was not downgraded, and EU representatives clearly indicated the intention to further deepen cooperation. That said, Finland is currently chairing the EU, hence, the Finnish Foreign Minister not only represented Helsinki, but the European Union as a whole.
Finnish and Swedish Foreign Ministers held talks with Belarusian Foreign Minister Makey and President Lukashenka and made several important press statements. In particular, the Swedish Foreign Minister, Anne Linde, expressed interest in developing trade relations, announced that Sweden had changed the name of the Republic of Belarus in Swedish from Vitryssland to Belarus. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto emphasized that “relations between Finland and Sweden with Belarus are very positive and pragmatic, but we would like to have closer relations in a number of areas”. He also thanked Belarus for the important role she played in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. Both ministers rated their negotiations with Makey and Lukashenka as “excellent”.
Among other things, the Finnish Foreign Minister tried to contribute to the resolution of an outstanding problem marring the signing of partnership priorities between the EU and Belarus: he proposed to hold tripartite expert consultations between Lithuania, Belarus and Finland on the safety of the Belarusian NPP. Lithuania immediately rejected the proposal; however, his attempt was an important symbolic step, evidencing the EU’s desire to continue a constructive dialogue with Minsk.