The ongoing dialogue with the West is yet unable to prompt a compete rethink of relations with Belarus
Last week, communication with the West continued along the lines of a previously defined agenda, primarily with the focus on trade and economic matters. That said, the old trend persisted: the parties were unwilling to make serious concessions to boost relations and make a significant breakthrough.
On April 4th – 6th, the Foreign Ministry delegation headed by Director of the Department for Foreign Economic Affairs Roman Sobolev visited Washington. The main purpose of the visit was to discuss Belarus’ accession to the World Trade Organisation and her access to the American market. Trade and economic issues have also been raised in relations with Sweden. Swedish Ambassador to Belarus Christina Johannesson, speaking at the seminar on the Specifics of Belarusian Exports to Sweden, outlined Sweden's interest in expanding exports from Belarus and widening cooperation in IT and transport.
Political issues were also discussed last week. On April 4th, Vladimir Makei met with the State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, Lukáš Parízek, and Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko met with Director of the Office of the Directorate General of Programmes (ODGP) of the Council of Europe Verena Taylor.
Meanwhile, the news broke out that during the Belarus- EU Coordination Group meeting in late April, partnership priorities between Belarus and the EU would not be signed, since, according to DFM Kravchenko, "they are not ready". The document was supposed to be signed in the autumn last year, however, due to the position of some EU states (Lithuania, in particular) it has not yet been agreed upon.
Foreign Minister Makei has laconically described the situation in the Belarusian-European relations in an interview with the Euronews channel: "The European Union has a list of our expectations. We, in turn, have a list of their expectations. Now the most important thing is to continue the dialogue, attempting to bring our positions closer".
Overall, relations between Belarus and the West have not seen a qualitative change for a long time, since Minsk is not ready to make concessions to the West at the cost of domestic stability (as it sees it), while the EU and the US are not interested in investing significant resources to help the Belarusian transformation. Hence, the political dialogue and technical cooperation in some areas of common interest is likely to retain, however, without significant achievements and qualitative breakthroughs.