Stefan Eriksson: “I think Belarusian side knows our expectations well”

By Viktor Pavlov

Sweden replaced Czech Republic in its position of a head country of European Union. On this subject the ambassador of Sweden in Belarus Stefan Eriksson answered the questions.

- Now Sweden is in the chair of European Union. Will there be any visits of Swedish leadership to Minsk and vice versa?

- In the near future there will be a meeting in format of “three” where our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Belarusian one will take part. And two-side visits will take place in the light of our chairing in European Union. So far the official Stockholm doesn’t plan any visits to Minsk, but it’s quite possible that different things can happen and our plans can change.
- Mr. Ericsson, what considers the development of cooperation on the Baltic Sea…? Do the numerous European projects involve participation of Belarus in the program of this region?

- The strategy of European Union on the Baltic Sea is in the first place an internal strategy. But certainly there will be questions where the cooperation with neighboring countries will be necessary. And such questions do already exist. Belarus already takes part in regional cooperation which exists around the Baltic Sea. And maybe, you’ve heard that there is a Council of the Baltic Sea states and it was decided to invite Belarus as an observer there. So, there are many possibilities for cooperation.
- Russia plans to build gas pipe line over the Baltic Sea. What do you think about this?

- Swedish side is quite skeptical about this project. Moreover the study of ecological consequences of this project isn’t over yet. Only when such study is over the Swedish side will say if this project is acceptable for us. I think that we will get the results of this study approximately in August.
- Do you think the mitigation of visa regime is possible for Belarus?

- Anyway there always must be a hope. But I can’t promise you anything concrete. There are many points in legislation so it’s not that simple to solve this problem. But in the framework of “Eastern Partnership” this problem can be possibly worked through. But I think it won’t be solved in the half a year when Sweden will be in the chair of European Union. By the way in Brussels there has been a decision made about some changes in legislation about visas. Not only for the Belarusians, but in general. But new legislation will come into force only starting form the next year. For example the cost of visas for children from 6 to 11 years will be reduced.
- Belarusian service “Radio Sweden” was closed. Can you comment this on?

- I heard this sad news during my vacation. And now I can only say that this is the decision of the Swedish radio company. One doesn’t always have enough money for everything one wants to do. Earlier broadcasting in Estonian language, Latvian and Lithuanian was closed… Of cause it’s sad.
- What’s your opinion about constructing of Nuclear power station in Belarus?

- Every country must decide for itself what energy sources must be used. In Sweden, for example, there was a referendum on this question and made the decision that we don’t need Nuclear power station. But, perhaps, one shouldn’t interfere into other country’s matters. This question must be decided by the government and people.
- What does Sweden expects from Belarus now?

- I think everybody knows what it is spoken about and we do expect. The main thing is to have a dialog and some activity. I hope that the Belarusian side also knows our expectations well. Steps towards each other can help to normalize our relations and first of all will be useful for Belarus itself.
- Will Sweden as a chair-country of European Union insist on releasing all political prisoners in Belarus? In spite of insistence of the authorities that we don’t have any political prisoners, we still have them. And Volkovysk entrepreneur Nikolay Avtukhovich is in prison in a very critical state…

- It’s a complicated question, but we are really concerned by the state of Nikolay Avtukhovich, though he didn’t get the status of a political prisoner. I think that Sweden as well as the whole European Union will open this question.