On November 24, 2017 in Brussels Belarus delegation led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Vladimir Makei, participated in the Eastern Partnership Summit (EaP).
The meeting was attended by high-ranking representatives of the 28 EU Member States and the 6 EaP countries, European institutions and other European structures.
During the Summit, the participants discussed current state and prospects for development of the Eastern Partnership in view of the current regional situation and common challenges facing the EU and its Eastern Partners.
Speaking at the plenary, V.Makei stressed Belarus’ interest in a strong European Union that should remain a main pillar of the global order.
The Head of the Belarusian delegation called for refocusing the EaP on regional cohesion rather than on splitting it into groups of countries with different levels of ambitions vis-à-vis the EU. The Minister proposed that the partners on the EU side actively explore ways of overcoming the East – West antagonism in the region, first of all by launching pragmatic cooperation between the EU and the Eurasian Economic Union, initially at the expert level. In this view V.Makei highlighted the importance of the new framework agreement that was signed on the margins of the Summit between the EU and the full EEU member, Armenia, as a possible step towards engagement of the two integration blocs.
The Minister pointed at the failure of the existing “rules of the game” to avert the confidence crisis in the European continent. According to him, the idea of a new dialogue and confidence-building measures preventing the return of the Cold War was especially timely in this context.
With regard to practical EaP cooperation, V.Makei stressed the importance of forging regional synergies in transport, energy and connectivity areas through financial support of infrastructural projects contributing to solidarity and prosperity of all EaP countries. The Head of the Belarus’ delegation emphasized efficient interoperability of the Trans-European Transport Network and China’s One Belt – One Road initiative as a way to unblock transit opportunities and secure sustainable economic growth in the region.
The Minister called for enhanced cooperation encouraging rapprochement between peoples in the EU Member States and its’ Partners through culture and people-to-people contacts. In V.Makei’s words, this first of all involved raising EU citizens' awareness of the historical heritage, economic and touristic attractiveness of the Eastern EU Partners and their constructive cooperation with the EU on topical issues.
The Foreign Minister referred to certain comments on the Belarusian nuclear power plant (NPP) under construction, describing them as biased and misleading. He rejected the allegations that the construction falls short of nuclear safety standards. V.Makei stressed the transparent and voluntary cooperation on nuclear safety between Belarus and the EU, including in the framework of the stress-tests of the Belarus NPP. Having been most affected by the Chernobyl disaster, Belarus is keener than any other country to make its’ NPP meet the highest safety level, according to the Minister.
V.Makei drew the attention of the Summit participants to the exceptional transparency shown by Belarus during the joint Belarus – Russia “Zapad – 2017” military exercises which, contrary to speculations, had followed a purely defensive scenario. The Head of the delegation emphasized that all units had returned to their permanent locations after the end of the drill.
The Belarusian Foreign Minister and the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, signed a High-level Understanding on TEN-T extension. The document serves as a basis for drawing EU funds into large-scale infrastructural projects to upgrade main international transport corridors in Belarus.
V.Makei with the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
The Summit adopted a joint declaration laying down guidelines for EaP cooperation and its’ deliverables until 2020. The document generally meets the position and expectations of Belarus that firmly opposed attempts throughout the drafting to infuse it with unilateral language containing confrontational assessments of the regional situation.
V.Makei with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Hungary and Romania
On the Summit margins, the Head of the Belarus delegation met with Hungary’s Foreign and Trade Minister, Péter Szijjártó, and the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, Halbe Zijlstra.
V.Makei with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Hungary and the Netherlands
V.Makei and P.Szijjártó exchanged views on the current state and future opportunities in bilateral trade and economic cooperation, including in the agriculture and pharmaceutical sector. The sides also discussed possible mutual support in various international organisations.
The conversation with Minister Zijlstra focused on political dialogue and humanitarian cooperation between Belarus and the Netherlands, including in view of the ongoing Belarus – EU normalization.
V.Makei with the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy
Foreign Minister V.Makei also held working meetings with the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, Johannes Hahn, as well as Heads of delegations and Foreign Ministers of several EU Member States and EaP countries.