Relations with the West gain momentum in several directions
Despite the summer vacation period, last week was fruitful for bilateral and multilateral interactions with western states. Belarus is consistently advancing in pursuing her strategy towards developing relations in the spheres of mutual interest with individual western states and the European Union as an integration association.
The major event last week was the working visit of the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, to Minsk. He held talks with Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Kravchenko, Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Rusy, as well as vice ministers of Agriculture and Food and Health. The parties discussed cooperation on sanitary and veterinary control and the prospects for expanding the access of Belarusian food products to the EU market.
For a long time Belarus has been seeking a clear answer from the European Union regarding transit opportunities for Belarusian meat through the EU; in addition, she is interested in expanding the export of agricultural products to the European market. Several rounds of the sectoral trade dialogue led to no avail on this matter; hence, the EU Commissioner’s visit was necessary to give a boost to the negotiations. However, official reports after the meetings were modest. Deputy Prime Minister Rusy once again voiced Belarus’ intention to supply poultry meat to the European Union and stated that Minsk anticipated extending the list of Belarusian products exported to the European Union. On his side, EU Commissioner Andriukaitis emphasised the commitment to cooperation with the Belarusian authorities on animal health issues and proposed to strengthen the exchange of information on animal disease surveillance and cooperation on the diagnosis of such diseases.
According to Belstat, Belarus' trade with the EU in January-June 2018, increased by 33.1% to USD 8.8 billion, as compared with the same period last year.
Last week, Finnish MPs, members of the Friendship Group with Belarus also visited Belarus. They held meetings in the Foreign Ministry and the Parliament. Their visit has once again confirmed the gradual recognition of the Belarusian legislative body by its European counterparts.
In addition, Belarus held meetings with representatives of the Polish Defence Ministry on military cooperation and regional security issues and with the Latvian frontier department on border protection and cross-border cooperation.