Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belarus V.Makei at the plenary session of the Eastern Partnership Summit “Achievements since Riga and Setting New Priorities” (November 24, 2017, Brussels)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to express sincere gratitude to our European hosts and the Estonian Presidency for the excellent preparation of today’s Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels.
I think that the main question for this Summit is, basically, what kind of partners each of us needs when the European continent suffers from the crisis of confidence.
What Belarus needs is a strong EU. The European Union should remain one of the main pillars of international order. We call on the EU to keep its strategic vision, because at present its global role is at risk.
Against the backdrop of Brexit, disputes over migration problem, centrifugal trends in some EU Members, Belarus calls on the EU to remain focused on the EaP. Eastern Europe should become an area of peace and prosperity and not a buffer zone. The Eastern Partnership should promote cohesion rather than division and avoid disintegrating into groups with different levels of ambitions.
The EaP should enjoy more resources and Member States’ attention what is not the case now compared to the Union for the Mediterranean.
What the EU needs is, in our view, reliable neighbours who build stability and prosperity at home and share it across the wider area. Belarus has never been a source of instability in the troubled region. We are committed to playing this constructive role also in future.
We need to address the East – West antagonism in order to have lasting peace in the EaP region. Political actors on both sides actively exploit it causing division and hostility in societies. To get away from this “either – or” dilemma the nations should be able to pursue relations with all their partners without alienating any of them.
The Eastern Partnership is well placed to make it possible. It is here that European and Eurasian integrations already meet on a daily basis. Today we are witnessing a sort of a first “bridging” agreement between them signed by Armenia, being the member of the Eurasian Economic Union, and the EU.
We propose to start aligning the European and Eurasian integration processes. And to enable result-oriented contacts, at first stage, at the expert level.
At the same time, since the existing rules failed to prevent the crises, it is time to start thinking of a new dialogue, new confidence-building measures that would preclude the Cold War return.
Some words on “setting new EaP priorities”.
Belarus welcomes the shift of the EaP attention toward practical synergies of regional importance in areas of transport, energy and connectivity.
We look forward to development and proper financing of infrastructural projects that would forge regional resilience and prosperity. It is especially important in the view of the future junction between the Trans-European Transport Networks and the One Belt – One Road project.
Of course, Belarus is interested in the European market. But it would also be beneficial for European companies potentially interested in our market, if we jointly with the European Side, explore trade facilitation options between the EU and Belarus.
The Eastern Partnership would only benefit from better visibility which should definitely work both ways. It is necessary to make the EU public more aware of the Partners’ cultural heritage, economic and touristic potential. As well as of contribution these countries are already making to security of Europe, for example by strong border control in Belarus not allowing flows of illegal migrants, arms, narcotics and nuclear material into Europe.
Within Belarus-EU bilateral dialogue, already more intensive and diverse, we already discuss with the EU expanded trade and investment cooperation in parallel with human rights matters. Of course, ups and downs are inevitable along this difficult path. However Belarus is set to make our relations sustainable and irreversible. My country looks forward to finalizing the Partnership Priorities with the EU as a bilateral roadmap until 2020. We would also like to count on beginning of the talks on a new Belarus – EU framework agreement next year.
And it might sound impolite and incorrect but I have to comment on some unjustified accusations against Belarus which I consider harmful and detrimental to the atmosphere of trust between Belarus and the EU we are trying to build up last years.
On military exercises “Zapad-2017”.
My country has been transparent and open during the exercises to a maximum possible extent. We have invited
85 international observers and many representatives of foreign mass-media to observe the event. We have held two briefings in the OSCE and NATO headquarters. And what important is that the exercises had a purely defensive nature. No foreign troops, not a single foreign soldier remained on Belarus` territory after the exercises. And, as we have stated on a numerous occasions, no foreign base is going to be deployed in our country, contrary to foreign military infrastructure that is present now in some of the neighboring Baltic countries.
On nuclear power plant in Belarus.
The issue of NPP should not be politicized. It should be discussed on an expert level. Belarus is working closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency and the European Commission on that matter. Belarus has held the stress-tests of its NPP on a voluntary basis. We are going to hold the peer-review of stress-tests in close cooperation with the European Commission. Belarus has suffered from the Chernobyl disaster more than any other country. So, Belarus is interested in building the safest NPP on its territory. It is first and foremost our own national interest.
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