Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

EU set to double financial assistance to Belarus next year

By Zakhar Shcharbakow, BelaPAN

The European Union will double the volume of its financial assistance to Belarus next year, Gunnar Wiegand, deputy managing director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and the OSCE at the European External Action Service, told reporters in Minsk on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Wiegand, a delegation led by Mathieu Bousquet, deputy head of the Unit for Regional Programs Neighborhood East at the European Commissions Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development, which stayed in Minsk between December 7 and December 9, identified several priority areas for cooperation in 2016, namely, regional development, the small and medium-sized business sector, mobility and migration, and technical assistance for economic projects.

The EU will double its financial assistance to Belarus next year, allocating its funds for programs aimed at building the countrys competitive capacity and creating new opportunities for economic and regional development, he said.

Speaking about his meeting with Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna earlier in the day, Mr. Wiegand said that participants had agreed on plans for implementing the European Dialogue for Modernization with Belarus. The program will be implemented in seven areas, namely, privatization, trade and investment, environmental protection, power generation, transportation, social development, and human rights, he said. Eleven priority steps for the implementation of the program were agreed upon, he said, without elaborating.

According to Mr. Wiegand, Belarus requests for assistance in WTO accession talks and for new loans from international institutions, including the European Investment Bank, was also discussed during his meeting with Ms. Kupchyna. These matters will also be discussed during a meeting with representatives of the economy ministry and the Presidential Administration on Thursday, he said.

Mr. Wiegand described the EUs steps toward Belarus as a means of increasing bilateral cooperation and a result of the release of the political prisoners in Belarus earlier this year and the suspension of the EUs restrictive measures against Belarusian authorities.

Mr. Wiegand linked the development of relations with Belarus to the results of the second cycle of the UN Human Rights Council`s Universal Periodic Review and the final report of the observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

He stressed that the EU expected concrete steps in the field of economic and social reforms from Belarus. The public will see them, as much as you could also see them in the roadmap which the World Bank has recently agreed with Belarusian government, he said. These are steps in the economic and social sphere.
Mr. Wiegand also expressed hope that Belarusian authorities would also take a number of political steps, including the democratization of electoral regulations, the declaration of a moratorium on the death penalty, and the facilitation of the work of NGOs and parties.