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Statement by Valery Voronetsky, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, at the Conference “Working Together Strengthening the European Neighbourhood Policy” (Brussels, 3 September 2007)

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,

There is no doubt that all of us as neighbours in our common European house have the common goal and the common interest – to strengthen security, stability and the economic potential of Europe. Our neigbourhood will become really successful in achieving this goal only when we turn from words to joint deeds. Only in cooperation we will be able to become stronger, more efficient, more competitive and in the end to achieve the main thing – to be fit to counteract the complex modern challenges. In this respect the interests of the European Union and its neighbour states coincide. We are equally important for each other. Therefore Belarus is for joining up efforts of the European states in creating a powerful and competitive Wider Europe with participation of the nearest non-European partners.

Belarus sees this goal not from the point of view of a recipient. Our geographical location, our economy, our universal potential make it possible and necessary to make our own contribution to strengthening of Europe on the basis of joint use of our mutual advantages.

Let us take, for example, the topic of energy security of Europe.

Belarus is making and is ready to increase its contribution to diversification and securing stability of energy supply. Europe ought to find a mutually acceptable form and a formula of uniting interests of suppliers, transit countries and consumers of energy resources and to create on that basis a stable supply system for the energy needs of the whole European continent.

Belarus, being situated at a strategic cross-roads of energy and transport infrastructure, is ready to work with all partners on more efficient ways of energy supply from all directions. As one of the key transit countries, we offer to carry out serious joint European projects to secure the protection of transit, including the physical security of oil and gas pipelines, creating and expanding underground storages, construction of electric power stations operating on the alternative types of fuel, etc.

This is why Belarus advocates that the successfully started dialogue with the EU on energy issues should continue. We are open for the interaction with the EU in the transport and transit areas. Our country is also interested in active cooperation in the spheres of environment protection, agriculture, scientific research, etc.

We should advance with the EU from the simple trade to more advanced forms of economic cooperation. Belarus invites European investors to strategic branches of our economy: power engineering, machine-building, chemical and oil-refining industry.

It is high time for our countries to move in practice to creation of common competitive economic area on the European continent, to creation of joint technological chains, united logistic and transit schemes.

Otherwise Europe will be losing the global economic competition.

A barrier to illegal migration, crime, human and drug trafficking will not be reliable without advanced and systematic cooperation. Side by side with the EU Belarus could have counteracted more efficiently organized crime and terrorism. The safety and welfare of ordinary Europeans would only gain from establishing fruitful ties between Belarus’ and EU border guards and customs services.

Military and political security and balance become again a critical and important strategic topic for the whole of Europe. Being situated in a particularly sensible zone in Europe in this respect, Belarus is also interested in interaction with all key partners for the sake of common stability.

What cannot contribute to achieving all these objectives as well as consolidating and strengthening of Wider Europe are the measures targeted at the opposite direction, that is at setting up new artificial barriers, be it tariff or visa restrictions, which hamper the development of contacts among governments, businesses and peoples of our states. This is why we are for removing artificial tariff restrictions, facilitating visa regime between Belarus and the European Union. We prove our position in practice: Belarus has already adopted a series of measures aimed at liberalizing visa regime for the EU citizens.

Dear ladies and gentlemen,

This is not only Belarus and the EU that need a new page in their relations. A new page is needed for the whole of Europe. The idea of the European Neighbourhood Policy may indeed become such a page. But it may not become such a page either. It will depend on whether Europe will be able to rise above transient, routine discord. It is only by joining our efforts that we could combine the advantages of both the East and the West of Europe and promote our common interests and face the global challenges. Not to understand this means to deprive Europe of an opportunity to become even more successful, safer and more stable.

Thank you.

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