Updated at 14:38,23-10-2020

Lukashenka presses EU for money

Alyaksandr Papko, belsat.eu

Lukashenka has called on Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy to talk not about democracy and freedom of speech but the economy. A senior EU official arrived in Minsk for the second time in six months.

Johannes Hahn came to Minsk to bring together the telecommunications markets of the Eastern Partnership with the EU market. He was accompanied by Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society. Lukashenka, however, started the meeting with high-ranking EU functionary not by talking about telecommunications.

“Discussions about democracy, freedom of speech, political prisoners, the abolition of the death penalty — they all go without saying, we do not take them off the agenda, we boldly and openly talk about it. But the basis is our trade, economic and financial relations,” Lukashenka said.

Belarusian leader said in a rough tone that he expects from the EU the removal of quotas and duties that restrict the promotion of Belarusian goods to the European market.

“It is very difficult to trade with the European Union in goods and services not being a member of the World Trade Organization. It’s like trying to win the race with a bandaged hand and a broken leg,” said economist Yaraslau Ramanchuk.

Lukashenka also said that he is offereing Brussels “very much needed” regional economic projects. According to experts, it is a combination of Belarusian roads with the Chinese idea of ​​the New Silk Road.

“Roughly speaking, Belarus wants to upgrade its roads and railways using the European and Chinese money,” said analyst Andrei Yeliseyeu.

While the government is seeking from the European Union free trade and wants to get from the EU money to modernize roads, ordinary citizens are hoping to receive from Europe a few other things.

Belarusian authorities have been negotiating for four years on the simplification of visa regime between Belarus and Brussels. This time, however, the topic which is so important for ordinary citizens was not discussed.

Minsk is seeking from Brussels open markets, not intending to carry out any political or economic reforms in return.

After a hard talk with Lukashenka Commissioner Hahn joined Mariya Gabriel in a meeting with communication ministers of the six Eastern Partnership countries. The meeting resulted in an agreement to harmonize roaming prices by the end of 2020.

It is hoped that the European Union will integrate not only telephony, but also the economy and society of Belarus.