Belarus insists on her terms for visa liberalization with EU
Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Elena Kupchina said that during negotiations with the EU on visa facilitation and readmission, no agreement had been reached regarding visa-free trips for diplomats and members of official delegations. The Belarusian authorities want political conditions for the resumption of the Belarus-EU dialogue to be completely removed, including the suspension or lift of EU sanctions without the release of political prisoners. The Belarusian authorities say that the EU is ready for more pragmatic relations with Belarus, however, with the preservation of rhetoric about human rights and democratisation. In addition, official Minsk seeks to impose its vision on the development of Belarus-EU relations when Brussels starts consultations on the revision and reformatting of the European Neighbourhood Policy towards Belarus. Meanwhile, the Belarusian government has no intention to change its attitude towards political opponents, and is more likely to toughen conditions for the opposition activities before the 2015 presidential election.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.