Session of the EU and Belarus at the ministerial level in Brussels on 28 July

In a session of the EU Troika and Belarus at the ministerial level in Brussels on 28 July, Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov emphasized the importance to continue joint efforts in normalizing the dialogue between Belarus and the European Union, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus.

The Belarusian minister also stressed it is essential to develop the treaty-legal cooperation base and remove barriers in trade, intensify collaboration in the areas of mutual interest, facilitate the visa issuance for the Belarusian people.

Partaking in the meeting from the European side were Carl Bildt, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy.

Relaxing the Belarus-EU visa requirements is a priority of the dialogue between Belarus and the European Union, Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov said in a meeting with the EU Troika in Brussels.

“The visa barrier hampers free travel to Europe. Therefore the visa-related difficulties should be removed,” Sergei Martynov said.

According to the minister, Belarus has every reason to hope that the visa issues will be settled in its favor. “Our citizens have to pay for the Schengen visa twice as much as citizens of the neighboring countries. For Belarusians, visa procedures are extremely long and complicated,” Sergei Martynov added.

The second important issue on the Brussels-Minsk agenda is trade. “Belarus would like to see better terms for cooperation with the EU in this area,” Sergei Martynov said.

The potential of the relations between Belarus and the European Union will be fulfilled in full, if the country adopts drastic and irreversible reforms and the European side sees significant progress as early as November 2009, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, said after a meeting between Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov and the EU Troika on 28 July.

According to the European commissioner, it is high time a new impetus were given to the Belarus-EU relations. In September the European Union will start studying the progress Minsk will have achieved in complying with the EU five major requirements. The complete abolition of visa sanctions will be considered by the EU foreign ministers in November. According to Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Belarus which is now an active participant of the Eastern Partnership initiative will be able to cooperate with the EU in the bilateral format.

The European commissioner noted that Brussels doubled the amount of aid it gives to Belarus – from EUR5 million to EUR10 million. At present the European Commission is considering a possibility to grant Belarus microeconomic aid and an opportunity to apply for loans to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. She stated that the EU has a lot to offer to Belarus in many areas, including macroeconomy, energy, trade and visa regulations.

Carl Bildt, the Foreign Minister of Sweden which holds the current EU Presidency, noted that “the Belarusian authorities can do more to strengthen relations with the European Union.” In his words, the EU “appreciates the determination of Belarus to develop close cooperation with the EU.”

The session highlighted the issues related to the EU possible assistance to Belarus in overcoming the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis as well as providing Belarus with a full-fledged access to the loan and investment resources of the international financial institutions including the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.

In Brussels Sergei Martynov also met with Vygaudas Usackas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Laslo Kovacs, EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union.

Lithuania supports the dialogue between Belarus and the European Union and also Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership Programme, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas noted during his meeting with Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov before the Belarus-EU consultations in Brussels.

Vygaudas Usackas urges Belarus to use the advantages of the Eastern Partnership Programme more actively. According to him, Lithuania supports the Belarus-EU dialogue regarding the transportation of goods, capitals and people.

The foreign ministers discussed the trade and economic cooperation including the cooperation in energy and transport areas and also the preparation for the Lithuanian-Belarusian Economic Forum which will be held in Vilnius in September. Sergei Martynov invited the Lithuanian counterpart to pay a visit to Belarus in August this year.