Lukashenka: Normalization of relations with EU is Belarus’ economic priority

Alyaksandr Lukashenka described the further normalization of relations with the European Union as one of Belarus’ economic priorities while speaking at a government meeting in Minsk on Tuesday.

“Today we have to expand the circle of our business partners and reliable allies in order to bolster the country’s authority,” the presidential press office quoted Mr. Lukashenka as saying. “We should not have fights and disputes but should rather be friends with everyone. It is crucially important to develop cooperation with the East and the West to an equal extent, without opting for any one them. It is necessary to establish contacts everywhere so that we are known, understood and eventually accepted. Only then can we hope for the establishment of mutually beneficial relations.”

According to Mr. Lukashenka, his proposal to launch a new "Helsinki process” reflects concerns about deteriorating relations between countries in Eurasia.

Mr. Lukashenka defended the so-called Minsk agreements, which specify steps toward an end to violence in Ukraine`s Donbas region, and condemned calls for achieving a peaceful settlement outside the deal. "They say that the Minsk format is outdated and can be dispensed with," he said. "But nothing new has been proposed in reality. That is why the Minsk process should remain but it should continue more energetically."

Mr. Lukashenka said that it was necessary not to miss the opportunities provided by the current improvement in the global economic situation for increasing Belarus` exports.

“I am speaking to all participants at the meeting, not only to the foreign ministry and ambassadors but also to the government and major exporters. We should not miss this moment,” he said. “But it is necessary to avoid the situation where we rush to the markets where nobody is waiting for us and leave behind the most profitable, tried and tested markets of the closest countries.”

He ordered the government, the foreign ministry and the economy ministry to put more effort into removing barriers in the common economic area.

“The creation of equal conditions for economic entities within the framework of the [Belarusian-Russian] Union State and the EAEU [Eurasian Economic Union] is our strategic goal,” he said. “And it is necessary to be persistent and reach it as quickly as possible.”

At the same time he pointed out that the government should continue to take measures to protect the domestic market and tackle the problem of parallel imports.

According to Mr. Lukashenka, Belarus should make use of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s One Belt, One Road initiative and become an important transit, logistics and manufacturing chain of it.

He said that Belarus’ strategic partnership and mutually beneficial cooperation with China required closer attention to both the implementation of bilateral projects and cooperation within the framework of large-scale integration blocs.

It is also necessary to work out a strategy for Belarus’ comprehensive and long-term cooperation with African countries, Mr. Lukashenka said.