Official Minsk against opening Customs Union market to new participants
At a press conference in Minsk, Ambassador of India to Belarus Manoj Kumar Bharti said that India was interested in joining the free trade zone within the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.
Belarus is feeling threatened by this proposal. If India entered the free trade zone within the CU, Belarusian producers would be in a significantly weaker position on the Russian market, facing stiff competition from Indian manufacturers. Official Minsk is not interested in opening the common market with Russia and Kazakhstan to new states – it will seek to freeze the current composition of the Customs Union, as it provides Belarus’ domestic producers with advantageous access to the Russian market.
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.