MINSK, 5 January (BelTA) – Belarus will focus on connectivity in Europe during its presidency in the CEI in 2017, spokesman for the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dmitry Mironchik told a press briefing on 5 January.
“Belarus chose connectivity in Greater Europe as the main theme of its presidency, which aligns well with the distinctive features of the CEI and the interests of all member countries,” Dmitry Mironchik said.
According to him, Belarus plans to pay special attention to this topic in the broadest context. He noted that along with the development of the transport and logistics infrastructure, there is a need to harmonize standards and customs procedures, introduce modern information technologies to boost trade and cross-border services, to stimulate entrepreneurship along the major transport routes and other steps to create a barrier-free environment for economic and investment cooperation.
In order to address these complex tasks Belarus would like to establish comprehensive cooperation both between the countries of the region, and between different integration platforms. These include the EU, the EEU, Eastern Partnership initiative and other sub-regional organizations such as the Visegrad Group, the Council of the Baltic Sea States, the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization.
“The Belarusian side intends to give a new impetus to the cooperation of the CEI with international financial institutions, particularly the EBRD, for the sake of joint implementation of mutually beneficial projects in various fields. Belarus will also promote cooperation around major initiatives that are important for sustainable economic development of the entire European region, such as the Chinese New Silk Road project,” Dmitry Mironchik said.
He noted that Belarus will continue the work to strengthen the CEI's interaction with other international organizations such as OSCE, UN, and UNESCO.
The spokesman added that, alongside with the prospects of expanding multilateral cooperation, the presidency in the CEI will help Belarus intensify practical bilateral cooperation with the member states, many of which being the country's important trade and economic partners. “Presidency in the CEI will also facilitate Belarus' participation in European integration processes with a focus on trade, economic growth and investments. We hope it will promote Belarus' international image and contribute to better relations with the European Union,” said Dmitry Mironchik.
“Belarus took over the presidency of the CEI in 2017. This is the first time in the history of independent Belarus that the country has become chair of a sub-regional European organization. Belarus has never presided over an organization outside the post-Soviet space,” Dmitry Mironchik said.
He added the main goal of the Central European Initiative (CEI) is to strengthen pragmatic cooperation in Europe and to prevent the emergence of new dividing lines on the continent. The CEI is an important forum for developing cross-border interaction in power engineering, transport, science and technologies, education, culture, small and medium business, agriculture, environmental protection, development of human resources, mass media, protection of ethnic minorities and tourism.
The spokesperson noted that the CEI seeks to find its niche in regional cooperation. In particular, the organization is strengthening the interaction with the EU, increasing its participation in the funds and programs of the European Union as a coordinator and key partner, and formalizing the interaction with other international or sub-regional organizations.
The CEI is a regional association comprising 18 member states: Austria, Albania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Croatia, Montenegro, and the Czech Republic. Belarus joined the Central European Initiative in 1996. The CEI aims to facilitate the cooperation between the states of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe in the areas of cross-border cooperation, energy, transport, science and technology, education, culture, small and medium business, agriculture, environmental protection, and other areas. In 2017 Belarus took over the CEI presidency from Bosnia and Herzegovina that presided in the organization in 2016.