Belarus is going to be an equal member of the European Union's Eastern Partnership program, and the degree of its participation in it will be determined by the country's national interests, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said in Minsk.
"Belarus is joining the Eastern Partnership program not as an aid seeker, but as an equal participant. The extent and conditions of our participation in the program will be determined based on our national interests, but not out of gratitude for being invited to it," Lukashenko said.
"We welcome this qualitatively new state of relations with the EU, but we also realize that this dialogue will not be easy," the Belarusian president said.
Belarus' better relationship with the EU is not a result of any "bargaining, accommodation or PR campaigns," he said.
These relations "must be built on an equal basis and without any demands and conditions," he added.
Like any other state, Belarus "has its own path forward, which matches the level of its economic development and history," Lukashenko said.
"But having one's own way doesn't mean that this way is the worst, because Belarus' policy is aimed at creating the best possible environment for the population's life," the Belarusian leader said.
Belarus will develop as it deems necessary, "but not according to anyone's pattern or orders," he said.
"Democracy imposed from the outside, or a superficial democratic coating is not important. No such hastily introduced democracy will be stable. It may come and go. The problems is that such exercises do harm to the country, its economy and its people," Lukashenko said.
"No one denies that democracy is the right thing," the president said.
Belarus has "as much democracy as its neighbors," Lukashenko said, adding that "this kind of democracy is necessary to ordinary people and their families on a day-to-day basis, not idle talk at the expense of foreign sponsors."
"The EU, which is being governed by its new relations with Belarus, and the U.S. administration have not set the goal of ousting the existing authorities. It means that they began realizing the presence of opportunities to reach the same objective by following different paths," the president said.
"We seek to create a belt of genuine good neighborliness - in the economy, politics, freedom of movement. Generally speaking, not only for ourselves, but also for Russia and the EU," he added.