Uladzimir Makei Suggested Starting Facilitation of Visa Regime with Europe

Belarusian Foreign Minister spoke about three «false choices» as main impediment to the success of EaP, importance of positive atmosphere at the summit and absence of political prisoners in Belarus.

“Belarus is ready to start negotiations with the EU on Visa Facilitation and Readmission Agreements, as it is important for our people,” BelaPAN quotes the words of Uladzimir Makei, Belarusian Foreign Minister, at the plenary session of the Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius. “We do hope that the Eastern Partnership would be instrumental in making progress in this regard and this Summit will open a new positive page in our relations with the EU.”

Belarusian Foreign Minister in his statement at the plenary session of the Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius said that three “false choices” imposed on the involved countries prevented the Eastern Partnership from being a success.

According to Mr. Makei, false choice number one is “Your Way or the EU Way.” “The Eastern Partnership is mainly about the Eastern Partners getting closer to the EU and about the EU’s support for their reform agendas,” he said. “However, the Partners should not get the idea that making things their own way a priori means making it wrong.”

“We, the Eastern Partners, all share the same values and the same European future (more or less ambitious), but we also have our very specific legacy, backgrounds and priorities,” Mr. Makei said. “We are all committed to modernization and reforms. But not for the sake of the EU, rather for our own sake. With or without the EU by our side we will make it. Yes, we make sometimes mistakes. And the EU can help and assist us there. But help, not punish. In this regard, we do expect that the EU policy of sanctions and restrictions against Belarus, which is completely contrary to the very spirit of the Eastern Partnership, will definitely end.”

Mr. Makei described false choice number two as “Take It or Leave It.” He noted that the key to the success of the EaP was to “find a tailor-made response to each of the six combinations of the EU and individual Eastern Partner’s interests.” If this is not the case, “the Eastern Partnership will remain ‘a lame duck’: a toolbox for accession without a promise and a promise of cooperation without a toolbox,” he said.

According to Mr. Makei, false choice number three is “East or West.” “There should be no place for geopolitical rivalry in our region, which is and has always been a junction of different integration projects rather than somebody’s exclusive domain,” he said. “Recent developments and sharp rhetoric in our region make us remember the Cold War times. We are against any pressure on sovereign States, irrespective of its sources and motives. But we are also against new dividing lines in Europe.”

“The Partners should not be under the wrong impression that the price they pay for being here, within the Eastern Partnership, is giving up their strategic interests elsewhere,” Mr. Makei said. “The EU should not perceive these interests as an impediment or even a threat to the EaP objectives.”

“As a gateway between the Customs Union/Single Economic Space and the European Union, Belarus sees these two integration processes as mutually complementary and convergent in the long run,” he said. “We launched and continue to advocate the idea of ‘integrating integrations,’ with a view to shaping a common economic space ‘from Lisbon to Vladivostok.’ We are convinced that this is the only way to avoid new divisions and tensions in Europe and in the region.”

Mr. Makei pointed out that to make the Eastern Partnership a “real adventure with meaningful outcomes, we need to make it more visible, more attractive and more unique in terms of opportunities and tools for moving forward on the way to the prosperity of people.”

“In the end, our citizens – all of them and not a selected small group – are the ones who should benefit most from the successful implementation of the Eastern Partnership project,” he said. “So let us join our efforts to make people in our countries feel assured and confident that this initiative is worth going along with.”

Mr. Makei noted that Belarus was interested to develop open dialogue, mutually beneficial cooperation and true partnership with the European Union, as well as start negotiations about facilitation of visa regime with Europe.

When answering the question about the political prisoners in Belarus, Foreign Minister said those called political prisoners are held in prison for “specific criminal offenses”, adding that in other countries, they would probably have been given longer prison terms.

The European Union’s sanctions against Belarus should be lifted or else there will be no progress in talks, Mr. Makei said. “There should be a dialogue,” he said. “All problems that exist in our relations with the EU should be solved in the process of dialogue.”

When asked whether the Belarusian authorities would release political prisoners in exchange for the abolition of the EU sanctions, Mr. Makei said: “This question should not be posed to the foreign ministry but to the agencies that made those decisions. Our courts are independent and therefore you should ask them this question. But I am sure that if those prisoners submitted applications for a pardon, those applications would be considered and a positive decision would possibly be made.”

According to Mr. Makei, by setting preliminary conditions, such as the release of political prisoners, the EU worsens the atmosphere of the dialogue.

Speaking about the atmosphere at the Summit, Uladzimir Makei said that the Third Eastern Partnership Summit was very important because of its positive atmosphere.

“We did not and do not expect any breakthrough things from the summit, but it was very important because of its positive context and its positive atmosphere,” Mr. Makei said. “The very atmosphere of the summit creates opportunities for further steps to be taken to normalize our relations with the EU and even to further deepen and expand our cooperation.”

Source: eurobelarus.info

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