9 Jul 2010 21:04

Belarus says wants closer ties with EU

MINSK. July 9 (Interfax) - Belarus believes that the European Union's Eastern Partnership initiative contains a large potential but that "this potential is in effect not being activated" and that "the pace of development of Eastern Partnership is more than modest," Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Kobyakov said on Friday.

"The Eastern Partnership should in practice help lift unnecessary barriers in trade and interpersonal contacts, modernize the social and economic spheres of the partner countries and develop true partnerships and genuinely good-neighborly relations between them and the EU," Kobyakov said at a meeting in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, with the European commissioner for enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fule.

Belarus wants Eastern Partnership to be filled with content that would help "build a prosperous and secure Europe without dividing lines and spheres of influence," the deputy premier said.

He also advocated cooperation between the EU and the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan.

"The Belarusian border is becoming a bridge linking the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan and the European Union as the two largest integrated entities in Europe," he said.

Fule concurred with Kobyakov's point that insufficient use is being made of Eastern Partnership. Belarus and the EU use up in their relations only 10% to 20% of the resources the initiative offers, the commissioner said.

But he warned that, in building up its relations with Belarus as part of the Eastern Partnership scheme, the EU would not move faster than Belarus does toward key EU democracy and human rights standards.