Official Minsk to unfreeze relations with EU ahead of presidential campaign in 2015
Last week, Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei met in Minsk with European External Action Service Director for Eastern Partnership Gunnar Wiegand.
The meeting took place a few days before the signing of the EEC founding treaty and aimed to provoke a zealous reaction in the Kremlin over frequent contacts between Minsk and Brussels. Ultimately, Belarus wanted to prompt Russia to make the concessions she had promised related to oil duties and a USD 2 billion loan. Also, Belarus seeks to normalise relations with Brussels ahead of the presidential campaign in 2015, in order to reduce the opposition’s influence on shaping the Belarus-EU agenda to a minimum.
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.