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Выступление Посла В.А. Шиха по случаю Дня Независимости Республики Беларусь

04.07.2017

Mrs Lyndle Sachs, Chief of Protocol
Mr Abel Guterres, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Шаноўныя суайчыннікі,
Dear friends!

Over the past 25 years of our independence, the network of Belarusian diplomatic missions has been continuously expanded and developed. As of today, the Republic of Belarus has diplomatic missions in 59 countries, most recently in Georgia and Spain, where our missions were established last year.
Representation in Belarus is also increasing. In 2016 Austria opened its Embassy in our country. The Head of the diplomatic mission of The Netherlands has begun his service in Minsk.
As a responsible member of the international community Belarus has sought to make its contribution to addressing global challenges and threats.
In what we all understand is a complicated international context, the efforts of Belarusian diplomacy have been aimed at pursuing a balanced, multi-vector foreign policy, as well as ensuring the comprehensive protection of our national interests, and the strengthening of regional security and stability.
We continue responsibly to fulfil our international obligations in the fields of international security, non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and conventional arms control.

With respect to our European neighbourhood, in 2017 the Republic of Belarus has been privileged to occupy the Chair for the first time in the Central European Initiative. “Promoting connectivity in a wider Europe” was chosen by us as the main theme of our Presidency.

The Annual Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe will be held in Minsk from 5 to 9 July 2017. More than 300 parliamentarians from 57 countries are expected to participate, the theme of the Session is “Enhancing mutual trust and cooperation for peace and prosperity in the OSCE region”. This landmark event will culminate in the adoption of the Minsk Declaration. It will contain recommendations to national governments, parliaments and the international community in the fields of political affairs, security, economics, environment and human rights.

In the past year our main efforts in the sphere of foreign trade were directed at expanding mutually beneficial relations with traditional partners and at developing new markets. The long term objective is to achieve a more balanced distribution of Belarusian exports in key directions, that is, with respect to our partners in the Eurasian Economic Union, the European Union, and more distant markets.

Diversification of trade is seen as reducing the vulnerability of our national economy to economic stresses in our partners which are characteristics of the rapid developments of globalisation. Diversification of Belarusian exports is seen as one of the conditions for ensuring our state’s economic security.

Within Belarus, substantive measures have been, and are being, taken to improve the domestic business climate. Our progress in this respect has been recognised by the World Bank. In the World Bank Group report “Doing Business 2017”, Belarus is ranked 37th among 190 countries, a rating which is 13 places higher than the previous year. For the second consecutive year Belarus has been listed among the top 30 countries according to the “international trade” indicator.

As an open economy for which exports are a key contributor to our national prosperity Belarus is committed to the rules-based international trading order. We have invigorated the negotiating process on our accession to the World Trade Organization.

But even now without being a formal member of the WTO Belarus is fully respecting its rules. We have made unilateral commitments in order to ensure the accession to the WTO of Russia and Kazakhstan – our partners in the Customs Union.

In the formative period of the Eurasian Economic Union, the Republic of Belarus has continued consistently to protect its national interests and strongly pursue its position of principle on the promotion of four fundamental economic freedoms: of goods, services, capital and labour. Eliminating internal barriers and creating equal conditions for economic entities of all Member states remains our priority in this organisation.

Turning to our bilateral relations with Australia, I am very pleased to note that this year we have celebrated the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Australia was one of the first to recognize the independence of Belarus.
 On the occasion of this anniversary an exchange of letters between Foreign ministers Mr Vladimir Makei and the Hon Julie Bishop MP took place.
Some important events have taken place recently. These include a round of Senior Officials’ talks between our respective Foreign Ministries which were held in Minsk.

Here in Australia, the Republic of Belarus was a Guest Nation at the Festival of International Understanding in Cowra (New South Wales). This Festival has a history of more than 50 years and in March this year it hosted the very first large and multidimensional event in Australia that was dedicated to the Republic of Belarus. There were many highlights of this memorable festival. These included:

The opening ceremony, which was graced by the presence of the Hon Michael McCormack MP, Federal Minister for Small Business.
 The youth dance group “Rovesnik” which came from Belarus specially to perform traditional Belarusian dances.
The planting of a willow tree symbolising Belarus during a special ceremony.
The Festival parade featuring our country with participants from local residents and representatives of the Belarusian diaspora which passed down Cowra’s main street.
The opportunity for Festival visitors to get to know better traditional Belarusian handicrafts, to taste Belarusian dishes and to book tours to Belarus.

I acknowledge the Belarusian Cultural and Social club of Sydney for their initiative in promoting Belarusian participation in this Festival.

May I address some words to my compatriots in the Belarusian language:

Шаноўныя суайчыннікі! Віншую вас з дзяржаўным святам нашай Бацькаўшчыны – Днём Незалежнасці. Жадаю вам поспехаў на аўстралійскай зямлі і узаемнай падтрымкі, а таксама любові да нашай Беларусі і гонару за яе багатую гісторыю і культуру.
Я асабліва ўдзячны тым з вас, хто сваімі талентамі і шчырасцю спрыяў паспяховаму ўдзелу нашай краіны ў нядаўнім Фестывалі ў Каўры.

Belarus has a long and rich history which is yet little known in the international community. It was during the period of prosperity of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in the XIVth-XVth centuries that the Belarusian identity was established as a core of this Medieval state. After that as a result of varied historical dynamics we remained in the shadow of our bigger neighbours.

Belarus has for centuries been connected to the culture and enlightenment of Europe.

As many of you will know, this year marks the quincentennial of the Reformation, the series of events which helped change Europe in the period we know as the Renaissance.

But 2017 is also the quincentennial of the publication of the first Belarusian printed book, the Biblical Psalms.

I should like to say some words about this important historical and cultural event and the man who inspired it, Francisk Skaryna, who came from the ancient Belarusian city of Polack.

Born in 1486 Skaryna lived an outstandingly rich life. As a young man, he studied in Cracow University then went to Italy and became the first Eastern European to graduate as a Doctor of Medicine at Padua University.

Translated into the ancient Belarusian language, the Psalms were published by Skaryna in Prague. Over the next three years he translated into Belarusian and published 23 books of the Bible.

Skaryna devoted his life to the publication of the biblical texts. He sought to make the Bible more available to the common people and wrote it in an understandable language. Skaryna's Bible breaks the existing rules of that time. It contains texts from the publisher in the form of his comments, forewords and afterwords, in which he emphasized that the purpose of his publishing activities was to help ordinary people “enjoy wisdom and science”. It is hard to overstate Skaryna’s achievements as one of the great humanists of the Renaissance.

I should note that Skaryna was the first to translate the Bible into a living East Slavic language. It was the ancient Belarusian language. Until then, the Orthodox Church had used Church Slavonic, an archaic liturgical language dating from the Christianisation of the Slavs by Saints Cyril and Methodius in the late 9th century.

Skaryna’s Bible became the second printed Bible in the Slavic world, after the publication of a Czech edition which was the first. Skaryna contributed to the development of the Belarusian literary language. In 1522 he opened the first printing house in his homeland, in Vilnia.

In concluding my remarks, I should like to emphasise that my country welcomes visitors.
Here I should like to note an important development which occurred earlier this year, the introduction of a five-day visa-free regime for visitors arriving at Minsk International Airport.
This regime was the result of a unilateral decision by my Government. It allows nationals from 80 countries of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, USA and many others to visit our country without visa formalities, just by buying their flight tickets.
Finally, as a sports fan, I must say how proud we were when in May the Belarusian and Latvian capitals of Minsk and Riga won the right to host the IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in 2021 with a bid the theme of which was “Passion. No Borders”!

This will be a great sports event to be jointly hosted by a member state of the European Union and a non-EU country. The Championship will be a tangible demonstration of the fact that sports should know no boundaries, and that sports bring people of different nations closer together.

We invite all lovers of this exciting sport to visit Belarus and Latvia in 2021!
  
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Шаноўныя суайчыннікі,
Dear friends!
Let me thank all of you for joining us in celebrating the National Day of Belarus.