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12.01.2016 12:05 Politics, Belarus — EU

Outgoing UK ambassador says that Belarus is moving toward Europe despite lacking freedom

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN
Minsk, 12 January. Belarus remains a tightly controlled country, UK Ambassador Bruce Bucknell, whose diplomatic term expires on January 15, said in an interview with BelaPAN, adding that the country was nevertheless moving toward Europe.
“That is why there should be improvements in the area of human rights and democracy,” he said. “Of course, the more freedom, the better, but this is a gradual, step-by-step process in any event.”
While acknowledging that not all hopes had come true, Mr. Bucknell said that the United Kingdom and Belarus have much better relations now than they did in July 2012, when he took up his diplomatic appointment.
Mr. Bucknell described Belarus’ accession to the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) last year as a “great success,” a “sign of progress” and a “ray of hope.” He warned that Belarus should “measure up to certain requirements” if it “views itself as a European country and wants to join European institutions,” including the Council of Europe.
Another important development is the resumption of the operation of the British-Belarus Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Bucknell said.
However, the most important achievement for all EU diplomatic missions is the improvement of relations between Minsk and Brussels, Mr. Bucknell said. “Our relations are gradually, slowly improving,” he said. “Of course, this is a process. Diplomacy is an endless process.”
Recalling his meeting with Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey on January 5, Mr. Bucknell said that problems in bilateral relations were among the issues under discussion. “We talked about the upcoming publication of the final report of the observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights for Belarus’ 2015 presidential election,” he said. “We also discussed recommendations for improving the situation of political parties and conditions for political activities in Belarus. We also raised the issue of the death penalty.”
Mr. Bucknell will be succeeded by Fiona Gibb, who is scheduled to arrive in Minsk at the end of January.




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