Minsk's involvement with the West remains high, albeit altered by the coronavirus outbreak
By Dzianis Melyantsou
The Belarusian leadership continued to explore opportunities for diversifying oil supplies and expanding freight traffic with some EU member states. However, a lion’s share of communications with the West was to return or ensure transit for Belarusian nationals willing to get back home amid the closure of borders to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
On March 20th, Foreign Minister Makei held a videoconference with his Polish counterpart Czaputowicz (instead of a planned visit) and the Polish Government Commissioner for Strategic Energy Infrastructure, Piotr Naimski. The parties discussed issues related to the return of Belarusian and Russian nationals from Poland, and Polish nationals from Belarus. They also discussed the potential role of Poland in diversifying Belarus’ oil supplies. Moreover, Poland and Belarus have already started discussing joint projects in this regard.
Foreign Minister Makei also held telephone conversations with the Foreign Ministers of Lithuania and Latvia. In addition to matters related to the coronavirus outbreak, the Belarusian and Lithuanian ministers discussed the possibility of increasing freight traffic capacities at the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. In a conversation with his Latvian counterpart, Makei raised the issue of future political contacts. They discussed Lukashenka’s visit to Riga, which was previously scheduled to take place in April.
Foreign Ministry’s explicit openness and transparency when dealing with the return of Belarusian nationals and addressing other humanitarian issues associated with the pandemic are worth a mention.
Last week, the EU Delegation to Belarus officially announced a 30-day entry ban for third-country nationals into the EU, and the Polish Embassy suspended the visa application process.