President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko traveled to Rome and Vatican on May 21-22, where he met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Pope Francis.
During his talks with Mattarella, Lukashenko spotlighted the activation of business contacts and called for the establishment of a Belarusian-Italian business council. The Belarusian leader pledged to create all the conditions necessary to boost Italy’s investments, create joint ventures and open Italian production shops in Belarus. “Belarus will always be a donor of stability and decency with regard to Italy and the European Union in general,” Lukashenko said.
During his meeting with Pope Francis, the Belarusian leader spoke about the ideological commonness with the pontiff. “It was also a personal meeting. It went very well. As good as it gets. We are ideologically the same. We share similar principles and views on the world order, development. The principles I stick to as the president are the same with the principles of Pope Francis. We had a very cordial and warm conversation,” the press office of the president of Belarus quotes him as saying.
“I told the Pope that it is time for him to come to Belarus and meet with our people together with our Patriarch. I am convinced that there will be millions of people who would like to see this handshake not in an airport of the faraway Cuba, but on the land which is the center of Europe and which is, thanks God, free from the cataclysms (and the Pope emphasized this too) that had shaken the post-Soviet countries and the states of Eastern Europe following the USSR collapse,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
At the request of EADaily, Belarusian political analyst Artur Grigoryev commented on the outcome of Lukashenko’s visit to Rome and Vatican:
"The significance of the visit to Italy and Vatican should not be overestimated.
"The visit is symbolical just because it followed the recent lifting of the EU sanctions against Belarus that ended the travel bans on Alexander Lukashenko and about a hundred of other officials, police officers, judges and other so-called “representatives of Lukashenko’s regime.” However, since February through May, in the West they have not had any desire to see them. Therefore, Belarus made genuine efforts to organize the talks with the Italian president.
"No “breakthroughs” have been registered after the meeting. The commodity turnover with Italy fell trifold, as Vladimir Makei, the foreign minister of Belarus, said in his recent interview. Dozens and hundreds of new projects can be announced, but there is very little information on any signed contracts or investments. The negotiations with Vatican have continued for almost a decade but with no “breakthroughs”. In Minsk, they exaggerate the influence of the Catholic Church in the secularized Western society in general and in the protestant countries in particular.
"Generally speaking, the leadership of Belarus has nothing to offer the West. The time when “U-turn from Russia” was generously funded remained in the past. Neither Russia hurries to offer “a carrot” to its sort of ally. At least look at the falling financial aid from Russia and its hard line in the negotiations on gas. Belarus looks like a Eurasian orphan now."