Belarus looks to streamline its network of foreign missions
7 April 2021
– Belarus is mulling over the ways to streamline its network of foreign missions. The issue was on the agenda of the government's session hosted by Belarusian head of state Aleksandr Lukashenko on 6 April, BelTA has learned.
“We will have to discuss a number of topical issues related to the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a focus on the optimization of our diplomatic presence abroad,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
He also suggested looking at the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in general, as well as at the relations with neighbors. “For some reason we begin to hide the ends in water when it comes to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There are more than enough shortcomings there, and we saw that in the second half of last year. We need to discuss these issues openly, and not just to demonstrate them, but to put things in order there,” said the head of state.
“The world is rapidly changing and there is a need to use the resources wisely”
The president explained that the foreign policy issues are always discussed at the head of state's level and the current session is a routine meeting.
“Of course, the world is changing rapidly, and we need to adapt adequately and competently manage the available resources in all the areas, including those related to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Along with numerous risks and threats, new opportunities are emerging. In a competitive environment, the winner is the one who makes the best use of them,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
According to the head of state, the pandemic has provoked a global crisis and changed the structure of world trade. However, the results of the previous year show that Belarus has managed to maintain its position in foreign markets, particularly thanks to the effectively built mechanism of foreign economic relations.
“The country friendly to us is where the buyer opts for the Belarusian goods and the government supports it”
“It is obvious that the country friendly to us is the one where buyers vote with their ruble, dollar or euro for the Belarusian goods or services, and the government promotes it,” said the president.
At the moment, Belarus' interests abroad are represented by 70 foreign institutions in 58 countries, which account for almost 97% of exports and 76% of foreign investments. According to the head of state, the system of the diplomatic service allows to solve the set tasks in general. “The only question is how effective it is in terms of the funds spent on its maintenance and the real results in protecting our interests. Is there an opportunity to redeploy people for solving the key tasks in places where we are welcome without any ultimatums?” Aleksandr Lukashenko asked.
“Protection and promotion of national interests in the economic sector should be at the forefront”
The president stressed that the previous year was a test not only for the authorities, but also for the diplomatic staff who must act exclusively in the interests of their country. “It is necessary to understand that, first of all, we are a small state and we do not have limitless possibilities to finance overstaffed missions abroad. Why do we need to this after all? We do not strife for globalism, as far as the prospects are concerned. We have ordinary, practical issues to solve both in politics and economics. Secondly, the first priority should not be a claim to leadership but the protection and promotion of national interests in the economic sector,” the president said.
In his opinion, in the countries with which Belarus has established close economic ties, it is necessary to gather trade representatives “under the roof of the embassy”. This way their work will become well-structured and they will have an additional opportunity to build relations with local authorities. “Let us take China. The trade representation there is sometimes ill-considered. For example, BMZ, Belaruskali, BelAZ and others all have their offices in China. Why not unite them under the roof of the embassy? The ambassador will help them make steps which they would never make themselves,” said Aleksandr Lukashenko.
The head of state posed several questions to the participants of the meeting: what tasks are supposed to be solved by opening new embassies, what will be their staff size and from what reserves it will be formed, what grounds are there for closing diplomatic missions in the countries proposed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
The government, together with the Belarus President's Administration, the KGB and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, worked on these issues in detail. “When discussing them, it is important to take into account, first of all, the economic aspect of the functioning of our embassies and consulates. We have to consider every proposal very carefully based on our experience and practice. I want us to consider in detail today the reasons for opening new embassies, the specialists who will work there, and how much it will cost for the state. I just want to warn you that everyone present here will be personally responsible for the proposals made today,” stressed Aleksandr Lukashenko.
It was noted at the meeting that Belarusian diplomats working abroad gather annually in Minsk to discuss the development of economic cooperation with partner countries. Last year was an exception due to the closure of borders. The president instructed to organize a similar event this year, which should take place at his level. According to Aleksandr Lukashenko, it will be ‘a specific report of all the ambassadors on what has been done, primarily in the economic sector'.
“Our representative offices solve not only political and economic tasks”
The head of state also pointed out that the Belarusian representative offices abroad solve not only political and economic tasks. They are designed to support citizens and help them in difficult situations. “As it was during the pandemic, when some of the Belarusians could not return home because transportation services had been stopped worldwide. Then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acted promptly and helped stranded travelers return home,” said the president.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also suggested exchanging views on certain issues related to the foreign policy.