The European Union is ready to develop relations with Belarus if the latter fulfills certain conditions, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's commissioner for external relations and neighborhood policy, said in an interview with Russia’s www.gazeta.ru news website.
The EU will become a good partner for Belarus if the country makes progress on democratic reforms, she said, adding that the 27-nation bloc could simplify visa formalities for Belarusians and forge closer trade contacts.
Ms. Ferrero-Waldner urged Belarus to be ready to cooperate with the EU and adopt democratic values. The Belarusian economy has been hit hard by the global economic crisis and is expected to fall into recession this year after a 10-percent growth in 2008, the EU commissioner said.
Brussels supports the International Monetary Fund’s stand-by arrangement with the Belarusian government that aims to stabilize the situation and explores every kind of possibility for additional assistance to Belarus, Mr. Ferrero-Waldner said.
Together with the IMF, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank, the EU may provide economic support to the Belarusian government to encourage further liberalization steps, the commissioner said.
She said that the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization would be a key step toward economic reforms.