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Lukashenko: Belarus is ready for cooperation with EU, with national interests in mind

MINSK (BelTA) – Belarus is ready to cooperate with the European Union, keeping national interests in mind, Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with Austrian Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz on 29 March, BelTA has learned.

The Belarusian head of state thanked Austria for contribution to Belarus' rapprochement with the European Union. “It is impossible to keep the center of Europe away from close cooperation of the European Union with our country. We are ready for this cooperation, but, as you rightly said, national interests should always be taken into account,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

The president told Sebastian Kurz that he had carefully read his article in the Die Welt newspaper and he liked the chancellor's point of view on the development of Europe. "It is bold and resolute. This is also a point of view on Europe's development which is possible today. We are ready to cooperate in all the areas with the Europe which you see today and tomorrow,” the head of state said.

Alexander Lukashenko noted that he supports Sebastian Kurz's proposals for more independent activities of the national governments in the European Union, which he voiced in the newspaper. According to the chancellor, the EU should deal primarily with foreign policy and defense, not the internal affairs of individual countries. “This is absolutely right,” the president stressed.

“The most important thing which I agree with you is decision making. You used to criticize us a lot for overwhelming bureaucracy. But what is happening in the European Union right now looks like some comedy in fact. Decisions in the modern world must be taken very quickly, and these decisions must be bold, as you said in the article,” the Belarusian leader added.

The head of state also noted that he is totally against the dissolution of the European Union and its weakening. “The European Union is one of the main pillars of stability on our planet today. If this pillar is pulled out, it will be very difficult to hold the overall system on the rest of the pillars: the United States, China, India and Russia. It will be very difficult to do so, since it is one fourth of world production. The European Union needs to be preserved. Of course, Europe and the European Union need to be modernized, but not destroyed,” the president said.

Alexander Lukashenko added that there are no problems in the political relations between Belarus and Austria. “Our views coincide with the ones of the Austrian authorities on what concerns the international agenda. We have no contradictions here, neither on the development of our European region, nor of the world in general,” the head of state said.

Sebastian Kurz visited Belarus as the Austrian foreign minister in 2015 and 2017.

In 2018, the trade between Belarus an Austria totaled $171.4 million. Belarus' main exports included products made of basic metals, products of timber and woodworking industry, and oil products. Supplies to Belarus comprised investment goods (mainly, machinery and equipment), medications and vaccines. The export of services to Austria (transport sector accounted for 78%) made up $116.1 million in 2018.

Austria is among the world's biggest investors in the Belarusian economy. A total of $296.7 million of investment were injected in 2018. New investment projects are developed with the participation of Kronospan, A1 Telekom Austria Group and Lenzing (production of wood-based viscose fibers) to the total amount exceeding $500 million.

In Belarus there are 83 companies with the Austrian capital (48 joint ventures and 35 foreign firms) and also 20 representations of Austrian organizations. In Austria there is an office of Belavia Airlines, and also three trading companies: BELMET Handelsgesellschaft and RMZ Vertriebsgesellschaft (both with the participation of OAO BMZ), and SolTrade (OAO Belaruskali).

The legal framework of the Belarusian-Austrian relations is based on 16 agreements.