Minsk develops cooperation with the EU regions and expects reciprocity from Brussels
The Belarusian authorities continued to implement the ‘small steps’ strategy in developing relations with the European Union, focusing primarily on trade and economic ties. The EU, in turn, sent a message about the readiness to resolve visa issues.
On August 1st, 2018, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko met with the delegation of the Parliamentary Forum on Relations with the Countries of Central and Eastern Europe of the Federal State of Saxony (Germany). The delegation, headed by the State Minister of Justice of Saxony and the President of the Parliamentary Forum, Sebastian Gemkow, included more than 10 MPs of the Saxon State Parliament, and representatives of business circles and education. During the meeting, the parties discussed the prospects for the Belarusian-German cooperation, including the parliamentary and economic dimensions, the expansion of cooperation between Belarus and Saxony.
On August 2nd, 2018, Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko met with Czech Ambassador Milan Eckert. At the meeting, the diplomats discussed Belarusian-Czech relations, noted the growth in bilateral trade turnover and confirmed readiness to further the political dialogue and trade and economic cooperation.
The EU took a note of the 30-day visa waiver introduced by Belarus a week ago. On July 30th, the European Commission officially invited Belarus to participate in the fifth round of negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements. According to the European Commissioner for Migration, Internal Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos, "The European Union is firmly committed to strengthening its engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society. Visa facilitation, in particular, will enhance people-to-people contacts, which, beyond personal networks, would also enable businesses to develop stronger ties, benefitting our economies."
Simultaneously, in an interview with TUT.by, Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus Andrea Viktorin stated that the EU welcomed the extension of the visa-free stay by Belarus, but emphasised that to successfully conclude negotiations on the visa facilitation agreement, some issues needed to be resolved, hinting that the EU was not ready to automatically apply the reciprocity principle, and expected that Minsk met all the requirements and fulfilled bureaucratic procedures.