Belarus – forging closer relations with Europe
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei in Berlin on 21 October 2019, © Felix Zahn/photothek.net
Belarus has become closer to Germany and the EU in recent years. At the same time, the country needs to make progress on important reforms in the fields of democracy and the rule of law.
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met his Belarusian counterpart Vladimir Makei at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin on 21 October for talks on bilateral relations, the two countries’ joint engagement in eastern Ukraine and the future of the Eastern Partnership.
A European neighbour
As a member of the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Belarus has intensified its relations with Europe in recent years and is negotiating with the EU on visa facilitation. The EU is supporting the partner governments’ reform paths via the Eastern Partnership. Belarus has continued to seek closer relations with the EU.
Advancing the reform agenda
At the same time, Germany and the EU repeatedly spell out that there are still shortcomings in Belarus as regards the rule of law and pluralism. Although some progress has been made regarding the admission of opposition candidates and the importance of civil society, much remains to be done. The parliamentary elections in November will be a benchmark for the development of political rights.
Foreign Minister Maas said:
As our relations become closer, it is crucial to continue the reform agenda that has started in Belarus.
Addressing the past together
Some of the darkest chapters of German history occurred in what is now Belarus. Maly Trostinets, a village near Minsk, is the site of what is believed to be the largest Nazi extermination camp in the former Soviet Union. By funding remembrance sites and holding joint German-Belarusian historian conferences, Germany and Belarus aim to raise awareness of past crimes and to come to terms with them together. Foreign Minister Makei is personally committed to ensuring the implementation of these projects.
Foreign Minister Maas said:
Belarus is also taking on responsibility for regional peace and stability. This can be seen in particular in its ongoing support for the Minsk process.
Support for security in eastern Ukraine
Belarus has played an important role in supporting the mediation efforts to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Minsk hosted the crucial summits where the parties to the conflict reached consensus on the Minsk Agreements aimed at resolving the conflict. New momentum came about recently as regards implementing these Agreements when the parties to the conflict agreed to disengage forces in certain areas and to apply the Steinmeier formula. Belarus has thus become an important partner in international conflict Resolution.