Meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Ann Linde and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto

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Belarus is interested in building good-neighborly relations on the basis of mutual respect with the European Union, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden Ann Linde and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto on 25 November.

The head of state praised the fact that the meeting is held right after the parliamentary elections in Belarus.

“Belarus is interested in building good-neighborly relations on the basis of mutual respect not only with the European Union but also with your states – Sweden and Finland. I have been saying this many times over the years. In some ways, your countries are an example of economic management for us. Our countries are very similar. We have similar economies and, what is the main thing, hardworking and strong people,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said. “We are making progress. Maybe, you are more successful, we are slightly less successful. But I hope that you will tell us where to go, first of all, in the economy.”

The President said that Belarus is interested in the best practices of the European Union in many fields. However, first of all, it is essential to complete the process of developing a legal framework and to sign pending agreements. “It would be nice to do it without preliminary terms. We need to move in this direction. Of course, negotiations and agreements are a long way of compromise,” the head of state said. “If we have already prepared certain agreements and realized that we need to sign them and move in this direction, we should not put it on the back burner.”

“You see what is going on around us. Small and medium-sized states should be closer to each other. They should unite, if it is possible, to stand out in this complicated turbulent world,” the President is convinced.

Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized that all the sides are interested in turning the region into the oasis of peace, accord and prosperity. “This is the main thing. If we succeed, we will be rich and our people will live a normal life,” the head of state said. “This is what we have in mind when we develop our peaceful initiatives and promote our ideas aimed at releasing tension and strengthening good-neighborliness. Obviously, such approaches are close to you. It is not without reason that the so-called de-escalation initiative in the 1970s was called the Helsinki Accords.”

This is the first visit of the Swedish minister of foreign affairs to Belarus. The minister of foreign affairs of Finland represents the country which is currently presiding in the Council of the European Union.

Belarus has a lot in common with the Nordic states. The countries share a long history of trade relations and contacts in various sectors, the President noted. “Despite being landlocked, our country is, nevertheless, an integral part of the Baltic region. Belarus makes a significant contribution to the well-being of the Baltic states by supplying goods, servicing transit flows in the northern and southern directions,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

“The environmental component is very important. I do not think you have any issues with us in this regard," the Belarusian leader added.

He invited Swedish and Finnish companies to implement transport and logistics projects in Belarus, highlighted common interests in renewable energy, environmental protection and energy efficiency. “The environmental situation in the Baltic region depends in many things on Belarus. Therefore, I invite you to support waste management  and alternative energy projects. We are seriously engaged in these matters,” the President noted.

Cooperation in the forestry and wood processing industry holds great promise too. “The application of your technologies and attracting investment into Belarusian manufactures will be beneficial for all participants. Thanks to the convenient transport service, we can supply products made in Belarus to the markets of Europe and Asia,” Aleksandr Lukashenko noted.

The President informed that on his instruction Belarusian specialists have been studying, for a number of years already, the experience of Sweden and Finland in forestry management and wood processing.

As for the bilateral format, Aleksandr Lukashenko said that Finland, like Belarus, is not rich in natural resources, but has made great progress thanks to its persistence and diligence. “Finns are much like Belarusians. That is why you understand all the ongoing processes in our country well. This can seen in Finland’s support of Belarus’ sovereignty and independence within the Eastern Partnership initiative,” the head of state said.

With the forthcoming launch of the Belarusian nuclear power plant in 2020, Belarus is interested in Finland’s experience to ensure safety of the Hanhikivi 1 nuclear power plant. “Your station is built to the same project and by the same Russian contractor,” the President said.

Addressing Ann Linde, Aleksandr Lukashenko thanked her for the initiative to undertake such a mutual visit, especially taking into account that this is the first visit of the Swedish minister for foreign affairs to Belarus. “There were complicated moments in our new history. However, we have overcome them and opened a new page in the relations. I think that we will be developing our relations in this direction. We welcome Swedish companies in Belarus,” the head of state said.

In his words, IKEA has launched its Go Belarus strategy to increase purchases up to €300 million. Cooperation between Scania and BelAZ on engine delivery helps Belarusian equipment to enter the EU market. Gas turbines from Sweden will ensure stable operation of the Belarusian energy system after the nuclear power plant is commissioned. The H&M clothes brand is developing its trading network in Belarus.

“Our partnership contributes to economic modernization and advancement to new markets. Business is moving in the right direction. Let us support this,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said.

He also suggested that the parties think what can be done to help such a visit add an impetus to the development of relations between Belarus and Northern Europe. “We will be happy to welcome you and colleagues from Norway, Denmark, and Iceland in Minsk. We are ready to discuss any issue. I invite you to an open and sincere conversation,” the President said.