Ambassador Boag, are the relations between Brussels and Minsk developing positively? Is Belarus making any steps forward?


The decision by the Belarusian authorities to agree to the Commission's proposal to open a Delegation in Minsk is, I hope, a sign that relations are destined to improve. The European Union has made it clear that it is willing to engage with Belarus provided that the authorities take positive steps. The 12 points set out in the European Commission's "non paper" indicate the sort of progress we look for if our relations are to improve.


What changes could be brought about after the opening of the Delegation of the European Commission in Minsk?


The opening of a Commission Delegation in Minsk will enable the Commission and the Belarusian authorities to maintain a more consistent dialogue on matters of concern. It will also enable the Commission to manage more closely its financial co-operation with the Belarusian authorities within the framework of TACIS and now the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. At the same time it will enable us to maintain contacts and co-operate with a much broader range of Belarusian society than is possible at present.


What will be the format of the Commission Delegation?


The Commission will be represented in Minsk by a Chargé d'affaires. The Head of Delegation in Kyiv will remain accredited to Minsk. We very much hope that the negotiations for the Establishment Agreement of the Delegation can be concluded quickly.


Does this agreement presuppose that Chargé d'affaires and the Head of Delegation will be reappointed?


In the foreseeable future there will be no change of personnel.


What should the head of the EC Delegation to Belarus be like?


I think any Head of Delegation needs to be able to communicate both with those to whom he is accredited and with those by whom he is sent. This is essential to creating a better understanding. From such understanding can come some progress.


How important could be the work of Special representative of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry Sergey Gaidukevich?


There are already well established communication links between the Commission and the Belarusian authorities. There is a Belarusian Mission in Brussels and there will soon be a Commission Delegation in Minsk. Diplomatic contacts are an essential part of developing and, we hope, improving relations between the Commission and third countries.


Politics aside, what could be the three words for you to describe Belarus with? Any qualities you would consider typically Belarusian?


Three words are a bit short for a country of 10 million people. I would describe Belarus as a country which has the potential to become part of the European family of nations. I am not sure that there is such a thing as a typical Belarusian. I meet many different types.


Have you seen much of Belarus? What are your impressions of the country?


Unfortunately I have seen little of Belarus apart from my official visits to Minsk. However my last trip to Belarus was to Brest which I much enjoyed. To visit the Belavezhskaya Puscha and its Museum was a great experience.


What is your wish for Belarusians?


My wish for the Belarusians is that it will be possible for them to benefit from the possibilities offered by the European Neighbourhood Policy, in particular democracy, good governance and economic progress. For this to happen we look to the Belarusian government to adhere to the values that underlie that policy.


Ian Boag has been Ambassador, Head of the Delegation of the European Commission in Kyiv since September 2004. Accredited to Minsk since June 2006.


He began his career in the British Diplomatic Service and, after several years, switched to the private sector where he was an international reinsurance broker for nearly five years.


In 1978 he joined the European Commission. Apart from various posts in the Directorates General for Development and for External Relations he was a member of the Cabinet of Claude Cheysson (1985-1987) and Head of Delegation in Morocco (1987-1991), Brazil (1991-1994) and Egypt (2001-2004).



Interview conducted by Maryna Rakhlei