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Good neighborhood seen as pillar of Belarus-EU relations in future

Politics 24.05.2019 | 13:46
Oleg Kravchenko. An archive photo
Oleg Kravchenko. An archive photo

MINSK, 24 May (BelTA) – The future of Belarus-EU relations lies with good neighborhood, Belarus Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Oleg Kravchenko said at a reception to celebrate Europe Day in Minsk on 23 May. The event was organized by the EU Delegation to Belarus, BelTA has learned.

Oleg Kravchenko extended congratulations to diplomats of the European Union and the EU member states. He emphasized: “The European Union is Belarus' direct neighbor and partner in many areas. Our relations are based on common historical, civilizational, cultural, religious, educational grounds and beliefs. This is about trade, investment, cooperation in the manufacturing industry, science, art, technology and sport, as well as youth exchanges, tourism, interregional and twin-town relations.”

Oleg Kravchenko noted that often mass media bring into focus issues, disagreements, disputes and scandals. In his view, this gives rise to misconception about the state of things in Belarus-EU relations.

“I will cite just a few well-known positive things. The European Union is the second biggest trading partner of Belarus. The trade is on the rise and this is partly attributed to Europe's decision to ease access to the EU market for a number of Belarusian goods,” he noted. Oleg Kravchenko also drew attention to the fact that Belarusians are among the leaders in terms of the number of the Schengen visa applications. Belarusians are not a source of instability, crime and other undesirable and dangerous activities.

Apart from that, Oleg Kravchenko mentioned cooperation of law enforcement in maintaining security of the citizens of the EU, Belarus and third countries.

“With a view to minimizing the risks of incidents that could lead to much more dangerous consequences, the defense ministry of Belarus is maintaining contacts with a number of the EU states, including the neighboring states that are Nato members, which is particularly important. This is our common contribution to the regional security regardless of the political situation and remaining disagreements,” Oleg Kravchenko said.

At the same time, he noted that the parties probably do not give enough exposure to mutually beneficial joint projects. For example, thanks to the European Union, Belarusian specialists, from researchers to medical professionals, get an opportunity to study Europe's best practices, build up contacts with their fellow specialists, and learn cutting-edge skills that they later use in Belarus.

“The EU allocates financing to implement important projects, like upgrade of a water treatment facility in Minsk, solid waste disposal in Pukhovichi District, renovation of roads. The EU offers loans for SMEs which share in Belarus' economy is constantly growing. Last year, the collaboration with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was estimated at $360 million. This is fast and impressive growth,” Oleg Kravchenko believes.

He emphasized that Belarus and the EU keep negotiating the existing disagreements. “The frank discussion is not a goal in itself. It is designed to reconcile positions, meet each other halfway, exchange best practices in the area that causes controversy in many states. Even our traditional critics admit that we are making progress. It has become common to talk about different discussion formats ranging from public discussions to official discussions, as if there were an abyss between these values and Belarus' vision and actions. Progress in Belarus-EU relations is conditioned upon Belarus embracing these values. I am convinced that such a narrow interpretation of values distorts the real picture. Values include both civil and political rights, and these rights are a matter of the biggest disputes between us, just like social, economic and cultural rights. As far as these rights are concerned, Belarus is ranked high in western rankings, sometimes higher than some western countries. These are at least two equal categories that should not be set off but become indivisible. I believe both sides should work on it,” Oleg Kravchenko said.

Oleg Kravchenko stressed that the UN Sustainable Development Goals represent a set of major priorities aimed at realizing people's interests and human rights. Belarus is one of the globally recognized leaders in terms of SDG progress. “The Helsinki Decalogue, the principles of international law are also important values. It is these principles that Belarus relies on in matters of international relations and international security. Examples are widely known,” he said.

“Celebrating Europe Day today we have every reason to say that we have achieved some important results in the Belarusian-European relations, especially considering the fact that our relations with the EU were quite complicated for 20 years out of 28 years of Belarus' independence. We have dealt with political and economic sanctions, some of which, albeit minimal, still remain in force. We faced restrictions in contacts, systemic mistrust, a residual effect of which is a major negative factor today. Belarus' equal participation in the Eastern Partnership is an important achievement. I hope that we will be able to make the most of this opportunity through joint efforts towards complete rapprochement and further development,” Oleg Kravchenko noted.

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