Belarus will preserve selective rapprochement with EU
After the parliamentary elections, Belarus has preserved the dynamics of contacts with the West with the focus on economy, border security, and cultural policy. Belarusian MPs will maintain bilateral contacts with their colleagues from other countries, including the EU, but not with the European institutions. Belarus is ready to make some concessions in order to preserve relations with the EU and the United States and reduce dependence on the Kremlin.
The intensity of contacts with the West after the elections persists. Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei visited Warsaw, where he met with Polish Foreign Minister Waszczykowski and Polish President Andrzej Duda. After the meeting, Vladimir Makei said that while keeping the alliance with Russia, Belarus sought to reduce dependence on her. Makei emphasised that "Currently, Belarus and Poland are experiencing a historic transition into a new phase of bilateral relations, which will no longer have room for distrust, confrontation, intrigues, outdated stereotypes and some ideological prejudices”.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry said that it was working to simplify the visa regime with the EU, and anticipated results in the near future. On October 13th, Belarus and the European Union signed a declaration on cooperation on migration and mobility. On the same day, Head of the EU Delegation in Belarus Andrea Viktorin said that the EU renewed a dialogue on trade with Belarus.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the Council of the Republic Mikhail Myasnikovich expressed hope for cooperation between the Belarusian Parliament and the Parliaments of the EU states, regardless of the Brussels’ position. On October 13th, 2016 the delegation of the Belarusian opposition visited Brussels and urged not to invite the Belarusian parliamentary delegation to Euronest.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to normalise relations with the EU on their terms, mainly in spheres of their interest, including economy, cross-border cooperation, and political interaction. The Parliament's role in the normalisation is likely to somewhat increase, albeit without full cooperation with the EU. Apparently, Belarus could be ready to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty in a while in order to demonstrate commitment to normalisation.
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.