Alexander Yegorov, Development and Security Research Institute, Director. Minsk.
Belarus is striving for a fully-fledged involvement in the European integration processes dealing with both military-political sphere, as well as economic, ecological and humanitarian problems. In the context of the specific features of Belarus' policy in these areas, it is worthwhile to focus on the country's course regarding such lea-ding European structures with a direct impact on the formation of security and cooperation environment, as the OSCE, NATO, the EU, and the Council of Europe. Such view will make it possible to provide a rather comprehensive perception of Belarus' European strategy.
Belarus and the OSCE
The Republic of Belarus essentially stands for strengthening the OSCE's role as the central, all-inclusive European organisation in the realm of security and cooperation. In so doing, Belarus proceeds from the key provision that no state or group or states can possess any kind of advantageous responsibility for peacekeeping in the OSCE area or regard any part of the OSCE region as a sphere of influence.
Along with the other OSCE member countries, Belarus is involved in the work on developing a "European Security Model for the 21st Century", which at one time was initiated by Russia. Moreover, this country attaches great significance to the issues of safeguarding security of the states - non-members of military structures. We pin certain hopes on a European Security Charter, the adoption of which is expected at the upcoming OSCE summit to be held on 18-19 November 1999 in Istanbul. The Charter is suited to encourage the enhancement of a platform for cooperative security in Europe. It could be possible to include in it, among others, legal and political guarantees that nuclear weapons will not reemerge in the centre of Europe. The European Security Charter should not become a declarative, but rather a substantial document defining the character of relations between the states and international organisations in the security area in the 21st century.
Belarus attaches exceptional importance to strengthening the ecological and economic dimension of security (for example, through setting forth the initiative to develop some kind of a "Code of Conduct" for these issues, establishing financial reserves to render assistance to the victims of ecological disasters and so on), inter alia, in light of trade and economic consequences of the EU expansion. The future Charter needs, obviously, to include special trust mechanisms due to the NATO enlargement.
The Advisory and Monitoring Group (AMG) of the OSCE has been operating in Belarus since early 1998. This Group is mandated to advise the country's authorities in the development of democratic institutions. Consultations are under way between the AMG members and Belarusian experts in such areas as the elaboration of legal framework, improvement of the current legislation, the development of democratic institutions and education regarding human rights. The Group monitors the compliance of the relevant provisions of the national legislation and draft laws with the international law and commitments of the Republic of Belarus. The AMG also monitors the main trends in the development of political and economic situation in Belarus.
The Belarusian authorities are longing to maintain constructive relations with the OSCE AMG in this country in accordance with the Memorandum on Mutual Understanding and Mandate of the Group. The bodies of legislative and executive power consider advice provided by the AMG experts in view of their acceptability and possibilities for realisation. The Republic of Belarus does not find situation in this area ideal and believes that both parties should intensify their work associated, first of all, with the election legislation. The main common aim is to conduct democratic parliamentary elections in 2000 in compliance with the OSCE standards.
Discussion of issues relating to the media func-tio-ning remains to be an important cooperation area between the Republic of Belarus and the AMG of the OSCE. The Seminar "Informational Society" held in March 1999 with participation of the interested representatives of non-governmental organisations and Belarusian authorities proved to become a good logical pursuit of the work done in the course of preparation of the second report on the situation with the media in Belarus (January 1999).
The Republic of Belarus is hoping for the successful continuation of joint work with the AMG of the OSCE under the Law on the Commissioner for Human Rights, the coordination of which is being completed between the Parliament and the President's Administration.
Belarus - NATO
Currently, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is the largest military-political alliance of countries of Europe and North America. The consistent development of relations with NATO meets the national interests of the Republic of Belarus.
Belarus bases its relations with NATO on the commonly recognised principles of the international law, including the right of every state to collective defence and joining alliances on the basis of freedom of choice, whilst stressing that this should not be in detriment to other states' security, especially that of the neighbouring countries.
This is also our state's posture towards the Alliance's eastward expansion. The official Minsk believes that the decision on NATO enlargement when there is no threat of military aggression in Europe is erroneous. Still, it treats with respect the choice of the states that have opted for NATO membership.
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic became full-term members of the Alliance on 12 March 1999. After the admittance of new members to NATO, the Republic of Belarus and the North Atlantic Alliance became adjacent neighbours with common borders. In this connection the government of Belarus suggested that the border between Belarus and NATO should become not a new dividing line in Europe, but rather a border of trust and good neighbourliness.
Today Belarus sees no direct military threat stemming from the Alliance's expansion if statements by the NATO leadership on non-deployment of nuclear weapons and considerable military groupings remain valid. However, Belarus finds it necessary to endorse these declarations legally. Implementation of the initiative on the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) can become one of the possible solutions to this problem.
NATO enlargement, as claimed by its officials, is one of the forms of the Alliance's adjustment to the new geopolitical realities. Thus, the Republic of Belarus stands for not just external, but also internal transformation of NATO from the military-political to the chiefly politico-military structure.
The Republic of Belarus intends to make its contribution to the NATO's transformation process and setting up collective security on the continent through the intensification of practical cooperation with this organisation. Hence Belarus carefully approaches the implementation of the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) Programme as one of the mechanisms of practical cooperation with other European organisations and individual European countries. In July 1997 the North Atlantic Council in the shortest time possible approved the Belarusian Individual Partnership Programme (IPP) within the PfP framework for the period of 1997-1999, submitted by Belarus.
The Republic of Belarus cooperates with NATO in the framework of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), composed both of the Allies and Partners. The EAPC today brings together 44 states, thus being a very representative body. Within the EAPC the whole spectrum of security-related issues is being discussed. Therefore, the Republic of Belarus, taking account of the significance of the dialogue in the EAPC framework, aims to enhance practical cooperation with NATO in the EAPC line-up. In 1998 representatives of different ministries and agencies partook in more than 50 EAPC/PfP activities.
Setting up of the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Belarus to NATO was a noticeable practical step to intensify Belarus' cooperation with the Alliance. This makes it possible to carry forward more effectively this state's interests in its relations with NATO, especially under the conditions of its expansion, and streamline coordination work between different agencies of the Republic of Belarus in the areas of cooperation with the Alliance.
With regard to NATO eastward enlargement, the Republic of Belarus put forward an initiative to conclude a bilateral document Belarus-NATO (Charter) that would evolve into a regulatory mechanism of two- sided cooperation. The draft of such a document was presented by Belarus to the then Deputy Secretary General G. von Moltke on 12 May 1997. Regrettably, there has been no answer to this proposal as yet.
As regards practical aspects of Belarus' participation in the PfP Programme, in 1998 representatives of the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the Ministry of Emergency Situations were involved in the PfP activities. Due to the conflict associated with the Drozdy ambassadorial complex and after the EU decided to suspend contacts with Belarus, NATO suspended the realisation of the Security Agreement between the Republic of Belarus and NATO, in particular, an expert visit to conduct a so-called certification. In February 1999 a group of NATO experts paid a usual visit to Minsk. The IPP of the Republic of Belarus for the period of 1997-1999 and partnership plans for the future were discussed. NATO representatives briefed Belarus in detail about new elements of the PfP Programme, as well as amended adoption procedures for the endorsement of national IPPs.
In late March 1999, following Russia, Belarus suspended her cooperation with NATO in protest against NATO military operation in Yugoslavia. Because of this decision the Belarus' delegation did not take part in the EAPC Summit in Washington timed to the NATO's 50th anniversary. Suspended was also overall cooperation under the PfP, including the EAPC meetings and activities.
In August 1999 the government of Belarus decided to fully resume relations with NATO.
Relations with the European Union
The diplomatic relations between the Republic of Belarus and the European Union (EU) were established in August 1992. In November 1992, in the course of the visit of the European Community Committee to Minsk, a decision was made to conclude an association and cooperation agreement between Belarus and the EU. The Association and Cooperation Agreement was signed on 6 March 1995 and ratified by the Supreme Council of the Republic of Belarus on 6 April 1995. This agreement was ratified by parliaments of eight EU member states (Denmark, Spain, Ireland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Greece, Austria, and Italy). The above nations notified the General Secretariat of the EU Council of the fulfilment of the internal state procedures required for the Agreement's entry into force. The German Bundestag ratified the Association and Cooperation Agreement in 1997, however, ratification was not forwarded to Brussels. Parliaments of the other six EU member states (France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Finland, and Belgium, as well as the European Parliament) have not ratified the Agreement as yet.
Unlike the 1989 Agreement between the EU and the USSR, the Association and Cooperation Agreement between the Republic of Belarus and the EU, in addition to the trade, economic and commercial cooperation, covers problems of political dialogue, including issues relative to the inter-parliamentary relations, legislation, cooperation in the realm of science, education and training of personnel, and culture.
The Association and Cooperation Agreement envisages the establishment of the Joint Committee Belarus-EU, the framework of which allows to discuss the whole spectrum of political, economic, humanitarian questions in bilateral contacts. Belarus has completed preliminary work relating to the composition of the Belarusian part of the Committee. At the same time the European Commission suspended its formation in the end of last year, which was politically motivated beyond doubt.
Prior to entry into force of the Association and Cooperation Agreement, trade and economic relations with the EU had to be realised under the auspices of the Contemporary Agreement between the Republic of Belarus and the EU on trade and trade-related issues signed on 26 March 1996 in Brussels. However, only the Republic of Belarus has yet fulfilled the relevant internal procedures required for the Agreement's entry into force.
On 17 June 1997, with the assistance of the European Commission, the EU Information and Documentation Centre was opened on the basis of the Belarusian State University tailored to provide both parties with information and knowledge.
As regards political dialogue, since late 1996 the overall relationship between Belarus and the EU has been substantially aggravated due to the parties' disputes concerning the assessment of the political and economic situation in Belarus. On 12 December 1996 the European Parliament adopted a Resolution on suspension of further steps by the EU towards ratification of the Association and Cooperation Agreement and entry into force of the Interim Agreement. From 25 to 31 January 1997 the EU Mission operated in Minsk to ascertain the facts. The Mission's report was considered at the meeting of the EU on 24 February 1997.
From 15 to 17 May, in Minsk, there was a Mission of the Special Representative of the EU in Belarus A. Kosto to bring the content of the Statement on Belarus, endorsed by the EU Council on 29 April 1997, to the notice of the Belarus' government and discuss the course of the subsequent Belarus-EU dialogue. Based upon the results of the Mission's work, the decision was made on the formation of the trilateral Working Group to work out recommendations on the possible improvement of the division of power mechanism in the Republic of Belarus. The Group commenced its work on 28 May 1997 and had conducted three sessions by August 1997. The Group's work proved to be fruitless since the requirements formulated by the EU turned out to be unacceptable for the Belarusian leadership. The Group's work was later suspended. Then, the EU made no attempts to resume the work of the trilateral group and began coordinating further development of relations with Belarus with the activities of the AMG of the OSCE.
On 15 September 1997 the EU Council adopted Conclusions on the Relations between the EU and Belarus. This document was of a harsher character compared to the earlier statements and went beyond the framework of the relationship between the EU and Belarus. The EU refused to find legitimate the Constitution being in force after the 1996 Referendum. According to the EU, such unyielding position can be reasoned by lack of progress in the realm of democratic transformations and market-oriented reforms. In accordance with the above conclusions, the EU reaffirmed the decision on the temporary "freezing" of funding for Belarus under the TACIS Programme except 5 mln ECU for the realisation of "projects of support to the democratic processes and mass media", as well as harsher for the regional projects implementation, including the border infrastructure.
In December 1998 a coordinated statement by the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Belarus and the Chairman of the EU was adopted. It laid the basis for the process of normalisation of bilateral relations between Belarus and the EU. On 22 February 1999 the meeting of the EU Council took place, where all visa restrictions concerning entry of the high-ranking officials of the Republic of Belarus to the countries of the EU were waived.
At present the EU and its member states are working out a new political line in the relationship with Belarus. There is an impression that the EU is trying to somehow "defreeze" these relations and take them out of the impasse. This can be confirmed, in particular, by the results of the meeting of the EU Political Committee held on 8 April 1999. Out of the four variants of policy in question towards Belarus (including the draft decision that envisages an open support for the opposition and the "alternative presidential elections") was chosen one envisaging the recognition by the EU nations of the official authorities in Belarus after July 1999, as well as the lifting of limitations to the development of bilateral contacts. At the same time it was emphasised that this variant's viability would depend upon further concrete actions of the Belarusian government and development of the internal political situation in Belarus.
The EU, which strategically has a powerful trade and industrial potential (it makes up over 40% of the world trade), will apparently continue to play a leading role in Belarusian foreign economic ties. This can also be proved by geopolitical realities of contemporary European continent: individual states of CEE and the Baltic states can join the EU in the course of the coming decade.
The anti-dumping measures of the EU regarding imports of certain goods from the Republic of Belarus, as well as restrictive quotas on the delivery of Belarusian textile products to the EU market constitute the main challenges in the field of trade and economic relations with the EU. Currently, anti-dumping measures of the EU are applied to the import of three goods coming from the Republic of Belarus: potassium chloride (Belaruskalij Production Amalgamation), polyether staple fibre and polyether plait (Mogilev Khimvolocno Production Amalgamation). As a result, exports from Belarus to the EU for the sum of approximately $300 mln annually have been blocked. In the course of the anti-dumping investigation the European Commission disregards Belarus' arguments and delays procedures relative to reconsideration of the existing sanctions. Arouses concern also a new anti-dumping investigation (initiated on 26 June 1999 by the Association of the European Producers of Fertilisers) regarding deliveries of the carbide-ammoniac mixture from Belarus (Azot Production Amalgamation) to the EU.
The EU enlargement process arouses a lot of contradictions between the existing economic and political centres in the world, which cannot but have a bearing on the interests of Belarus. Admittance to the EU requires from the countries of CEE to pursue common with the EU foreign policy. Therefore, toughening of positions of candidate states towards Belarus is already taking place. However, deterioration of political and economic relations with Belarus objectively does not meet the interests of the neighbouring countries. Hence, in our view, it is worthwhile for Belarus not just maintain, but also intensify the development of partner relations with Poland and the Baltic states, which in case of improvement of relations with the EU and these countries' admittance to the EU will allow to have possible allies in this unification in the prospective future.
Belarus - the Council of Europe
On 13 January 1997 the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe made a decision to suspend the special guest status in the Parliamentary Assembly for the Belarusian parliament. This actually means that consideration of Belarus' application for membership in the Council of Europe has been suspended.
At present, cooperation between the Council of Europe and Belarus is maintained only in the framework of the series of conventions that the Republic of Belarus joined and in the course of Belarusian experts' involvement in the steering committees and regular events of the Council relating to humanitarian problems.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is currently the key player in the relationship between the Council of Europe and Belarus. The Cabinet of Ministers, the position of which is more flexible, will be likely to resume cooperation with Belarus only upon restoration by the Assembly of special guest status for the parliament of Belarus.
In the Parliamentary Assembly, same as in the Council of Europe as a whole there is, for the moment, no unanimity of views concerning further development of relations with Belarus. Individual parliamentarians announce their readiness, in principle, to regard the interests of Belarus with understanding. Yet, they do not find it possible to achieve real progress in the relations between the Council of Europe and Belarus without "positive signals" on the part of Belarus.
On 22 April 1998 at the regular session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe a group of Russian and Ukrainian deputies presented to the Chairman of the Assembly an inquiry in the written form concerning the necessity to restore special guest status for the Belarusian parliament. In this conjunction the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe charged R. Antretter, deputy of German Bundestag, Deputy Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with preparing a report on political situation in the Republic of Belarus.
R. Antretter paid a visit to Belarus on 4-6 November 1998. The Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe listened to his report at its meeting on 17 December 1998. Analysis of its contents proves lack of principal fluctuations in the assessments of the development of internal political situation in the Republic of Belarus by the Parliamentary Assembly. The Bureau adopted R. Antretter's proposal to maintain the previous critical posture of the Assembly towards current developments in Belarus and, in particular, to support the decision of the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to suspend special guest status for the Belarusian parliament, as well as procedures of considering Belarus' request for membership in this organisation. However, the recommendations of the report prove a degree of change in the approaches of the Council of Europe to cooperation with the Republic of Belarus. These changes presuppose a combination of rigid assessments with the intent to maintain dialogue with Belarus. In particular, it is noted in the report that the isolation of Belarus is inexpedient. It indicates the necessity for the Council of Europe to render assistance to the Republic of Belarus in changing the current posture and provides advice on reestablishment of contacts with all political forces in the country to achieve consensus regarding specific ways of normalisation of political situation. To this end, the Bureau of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe recommended to the Assembly's Political Committee to discuss ways of maintaining such dialogue and take concrete moves in this direction.
On 27 April 1999 the Political Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held a discussion on Belarus with the deputies of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus and representatives of Belarus' opposition. Each party presented its perception of the situation in Belarus. Although the discussion did not entail adoption of any documents, it proved that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe had apparently made a decision to focus on the conduct of democratic parliamentary elections in Belarus in 2000. Prior to these elections, the reestablishment of special guest status for Belarus in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe is all but unlikely.
Thus, it is clearly seen that the relations of Belarus with the leading European institutions dealing with security and cooperation span many difficulties. Yet, it is hoped that the Republic of Belarus will be able to take adequate moves to become a fully-fledged participant of the construction of new Europe in joint effort with the other European nations.