Belarus attempts to stave off the EU sanctions’ extension
Foreign Minister Martynov’s European visits meant to stave off the potential extension of the EU sanctions before the Parliamentary elections. Simultaneously, Belarus is nevertheless not intending to fulfill the EU’s political demands and is ready to freeze the conflict as is.
On July 23-27, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov visited Brussels and Rome. On July 23rd he attended an Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting in Brussels. On July 25th – 27th Mr. Martynov met with OSCE PA President R. Migliori in Rome.
The main purpose of Martynov’s visit to Brussels was to prevent another extension of sanctions against the Belarusian government and business. Previously, a number of senior European officials (Wiegand, Fule) talked about such a possibility if Belarus failed to fulfill the demands to release and rehabilitate political prisoners. However, Minsk has not made any significant moves in this regard.
Most likely, Martynov’s visit meant to lower the degree of the conflict. Foreign Minister’s presence at that meeting was a minimally acceptable response for Belarus and an indication that Minsk was concerned about the likely extension of sanctions. At the same time, last week Belarusian media disseminated comments by Slovenian and Belarusian businessmen Mr. Shkrabets and Mr. Moshensky about the sanctions policy’s hopelessness.
During the meeting Martynov made it clear that Belarus was not going to fulfill the conditions put forward for the resumption of a political dialogue and, in response to criticism, accused the EU of democracy deficit. Martynov noted that Belarus was ready to participate in regional energy and transport projects within the Eastern Partnership, but only if they were bilaterally approved.
Belarusian authorities were not happy about the format of the European Dialogue for modernization with Belarus programme, namely, its development and launch without consultations with the Belarusian side. In early July this was stated by a representative of Belarus in the EU, Mr. Yeudachenka. Moreover, the government is certainly unhappy about a broad representation of the opposition forces in the programme.
Belarus’ European policy in the coming months will be determined by the election campaign and the actual parliamentary elections to be held in September. Even if these elections once again are not recognized by the West, Minsk is not genuinely interested in holding them in confrontational environment. Mr. Martynov met personally with the Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Mr. Migliori, who had previously agreed to send a full-fledged election observation mission to Belarus.
According to Decree No. 221 of June 23rd, 2017, deadlines for the completion of foreign trade operations have been extended from 90 to 180 days for exports and from 60 to 90 days for imports. Delayed payments entailed a fine up to 2% of the transaction cost for each day of the delay, but could not exceed the total cost of the transaction. Most companies, when working with new counterparties, require a deferred payment for a period of three to six months. Due to the new regulation, violations are likely to reduce in number, so as the fines. Trade enterprises are likely to expand the assortment list due to the supply of new products in small lots, and the assortment list of exported Belarusian goods could expand, too. The new terms for completing foreign trade transactions would enable medium and small companies on the foreign trade market, exporters and importers are likely to grow in number and the geography of export-import operations could expand.