One of the “stumbling blocks” between Kyiv and Minsk – demarcation of state borders, – which restrained the development of bilateral relations, was removed last Tuesday. Although the Treaty on the State Border between Ukraine and Belarus was signed as long ago as 1997 and then ratified by the two countries’ parliaments, Minsk refused to exchange instruments of ratification, demanding that the old Soviet $134-million debt be paid. In the long run, sources report, a compromise was reached: Ukraine will supply Belarus with cut-rate electric energy, and the two sides will intensify cooperation in the military-industrial and other sectors.
As President Alexandr Lukashenka of Belarus was visiting Kyiv on June 18, he and his Ukrainian counterpart signed the Protocol on Exchanging Ratification Instruments of the Treaty on the State Border between Ukraine and the Republic of Belarus dated May 12, 1997.
“Today we have at last legally finalized the question of the Ukrainian-Belarusian border,” said Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, commenting on this event at a joint press conference. In his words, this “gives a start to the demarcation of our common border.” Establishing borders is very important for a country that wishes to join the European Union.
Besides, speaking about the development of bilateral relations, the Ukrainian president said that they “are not utilized to a full extent” and that, “having such good relations, we must, naturally, have prospects for solving these problems.” President Lukashenka in his turn noted that Ukraine and Belarus have already achieved certain progress in bilateral cooperation. Particularly, this applies to the level of trade and the establishment of joint ventures in both countries.
The Day asked Volodymyr OHRYZKO, ex-foreign minister of Ukraine, to comment on the importance of the Belarusian president’s visit to Kyiv and the exchange of ratification instruments.
“Every country is interested in having the best possible relations with its neighbors. Therefore, any contacts, especially on the highest level, are positive. We have a number of still unresolved economic, political, and legal problems. Undoubtedly, this new top-level contact is useful. But l would like to look at this event from the angle of our European integration and future. I hope very much that we will sign the Association Agreement this year and embark on a difficult, long, and rather painful journey to normal European values. From this angle, Ukraine’s example can be also extremely important for Belarusian and (in broader terms) Russian societies. And the faster and the more possible the exchange of information between Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia is, the faster we will become a role model for these countries in the restructuring of social life. It is very important.
“I am convinced that Belarus will join the European community in the future and become, as Ukraine will, a full-fledged member of it. Any opportunities for ‘mutual penetration’ and mutual influence are very useful.
“Every normal and independent country wants to have clearly-fixed borders. The point is that if it has delimitated and demarcated, i.e. fixed, its borders, it will finally and irreversibly achieve international legal recognition. I would not like to say that somebody has won and somebody has lost here because it is of benefit to both sides. This means that Kyiv and Minsk have at last, after long years of uncertainty, settled this very important problem.”