"Eastern Partnership" program was created specifically for Belarus in order to connect the country to the integration process with Europe. This was stated by Senior Adviser to the High Commissioner of the European Union's foreign and security policy Pirkko Tapiola. According to him, the European Union calls on Belarus for cooperation, without enforcing it.
«In the result of political developments Belarus didn’t ratify the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, signed in 1990. And the EU Council decided to open the door of Belarus to bring it to cooperate. So it is obvious that the «Eastern Partnership» is aimed specifically at Belarus and its participation in this process,» Pirkko Tapiola said.
According to the European official, it is important to show the benefits of such cooperation in Belarus. «We are open to enter certain agreements, to finally come to the signing of the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation. A specific plan of action has already been developed. We want to make certain decisions to simplify visa regime, as it is important for Belarusian citizens,» Pirkko Tapiola said.
However, according to senior adviser to European Commissioner, Europe does not intend to retreat from the democratic and moral values for the sake of implementing their plans for Belarus. However, Pirkko Tapiola urges people not to exaggerate the role and importance of the upcoming presidential elections.
Process of Election is More Important than Its Result, Tapiola
«The most important thing is the process, the way it looks. For example, the OSCE / ODIHR presented a series of recommendations. Let’s see to what extent these recommendations will be implemented. We know that the President of Belarus, to some extent, is popular in the country, we know that opposition groups are weak. And here we are not talking about who should be elected and who should not. The most important thing for us is the election process. We will be watching what will happen on December 19 and in the run-up to this event, the way the campaign will be carried out and the election itself,» Pirkko Tapiola said.
According to him, democratization is a long process, and the EU seeks to motivate Belarus to choose this path. Therefore, Pirkko Tapiola says, one must look not only at elections, but the way civil society will continue to develop and whether the human rights and freedoms will be respected.
Belarus Not to Be Able to Participate in Investment Projects of «Eastern Partnership», EIB
In turn, the representative of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Philippe Szymczak said that the bank would allocate more than €4 billion for the next three years to finance programs under the «Eastern Partnership». Allocated money will be sent to the various investment projects, including transportation and environmental programs. However, according to Philippe Szymczak, Belarus is unlikely be able to participate in these projects, «European Radio for Belarus.»
«We are currently focused on the «southern axis» and the «central» one, since at the moment «northern axis» is in a dire situation; Belarus has not received the right to use some of our financial tools. Russia has also set certain conditions, talking about our cooperation on transport networks. So now we are developing a «southern» and «central transport axis» and investing Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia,» Philippe Szymczak said.
According to him, Belarus has not yet been included in the EIB financing. «We have a framework agreement on cooperation with all partner countries. With the exception of Belarus and Azerbaijan,» the EIB representative said.