Minsk steps up Eurasian integration rhetoric
At a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, President Lukashenka proposed to implement a set of effective measures for a more rapid establishment of the EEU. Before his visit to Bishkek, Lukashenka signed the EEU Customs Code and attempted to disavow the delay with intense pro-integration rhetoric. After explicitly boycotting the previous EEU Summit in St. Petersburg, the Belarusian president is attempting to strengthen his positions and form a coalition to defend his economic interest vis-à-vis the Kremlin. That said, some EEU states also expressed discontent with the course of integration within the EEU framework. For example, according to media reports, the Kyrgyzstan president also initially refused to sign the EEU Customs Code at the meeting in St. Petersburg in December 2016, but later he had changed his mind. Minsk aims to use the multilateral integration platform within the EEU to ensure a more favourable environment for Belarusian produces on the Eurasian market and improve energy cooperation with Russia.
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.