President Lukashenko expects reciprocal moves from Europe
On May 24th, at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov, President Lukashenko said, that in a political conflict between Belarus and the European Union, “the ball is on the EU side”.
Belarusian President demonstrates that he is not going to fulfill the requirements put forward by the EU: to release and rehabilitate political prisoners and to change the Belarusian electoral legislation. The Belarusian government finds acceptable the way the recent diplomatic crisis has been resolved, and after the return of the EU Ambassadors to Minsk intends to maintain the status quo.
Therefore President Lukashenko demonstrates to the EU that further development of the Belarus-EU dialogue depends on Brussels. Simultaneously, Lukashenko intensified regional integration within the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space. In particular, during a meeting with FM Martynov he discussed reorganization of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry in order to improve international trade.
Belarusian leadership recons that Belarus’ economic attractiveness as an entry point to the regional trade corridor with its customs benefits will outweigh the EU’s political claims. Therefore, while speaking in Polotsk on May 25th, President Alexander Lukashenko has called Belarus “a gateway to Eurasia”, and urged to carefully assess all the opportunities for economic cooperation, opening for the countries in the region.
President Lukashenka has met with the head of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, who visited Minsk and the Minsk Automobile Plant. Minsk has always sought to have independent links with Russian regional elites, partially, to compensate for the Kremlin's diminishing interest in Belarus. In recent years, Belarus’ contacts with the Russian regions have been extremely intense. However, with some leaders of Russian regions, primarily heads of large republics, communication was more difficult to build. As many analysts in Minsk suggested, Minsk could regard contacts between President Lukashenka and the head of Chechnya as an additional communication channel for relieving tension in relations with the Kremlin. However, most likely, a trusting relationship with Kadyrov is a value for Minsk as such, provided Kadyrov’s broad business and political interests, and a high degree of autonomy for the Chechen leader from the Kremlin.