Mamma mia! Berlusconi in Minsk!

A short trip for Italian PM Berlusconi - another political breakthrough for Belarus.

Last time Belarus saw such a high ranking visit of a Western leader was almost 16 years ago. In January 1994 the then-US President Clinton came to support a young independent country on its way to nuclear disarmament. In February 2009 the EU's high representative Solana came to encourage democratic reforms. The aims of signore Berlusconi were not that evident. One doesn't expect them to become clear.

The Italian PM, facing criminal trials at home, paid a visit to Belarus on 30 November and spent three hours in Minsk. His public remarks focused on bilateral trade and investment. He hailed the opportunities to be created by the customs union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia and the creation of a joint industrial zone in the town of Brest on the Polish border.

Berlusconi assured Lukashenka that Belarusians loves him, as has been proven by Belarus election results (elections which the EU actually views as having being rigged).

A number of documents were signed, for instance with Italy's industrial group Finmeccanica on co-operation in the fields of transportation, energy, space, security and security systems. Belarus is an important transit country for gas and oil.

The Belarusian president was satisfied: Minsk got more than it expected. He said he viewed Berlusconi's visit as a gesture of support in the international arena and thanked Rome for its efforts to promote Belarus-EU relations.

"All of Europe is looking closer at Belarus and everybody wants to co-operate with us," Lukashenka said, while visiting an enterprise for blind people, on 1 December.

The Italian opposition has already wondered about the aims of the trip to Minsk and demanded that Berlusconi to explain his remarks before parliament. The Belarusian opposition never expected any explanations: Why is Minsk so satisfied with the signed documents? Why should they be signed in personal presence of Berlusconi?

Anyway the visit of the leader of the country which is member of EU and NATO was too short, more of a symbolic than substantial character.

One of the questions could be about the interest of Italian business in the the gambling business in Belarus, which Berlusconi is rumoured to have lobbied for in Minsk. Kiev and Moscow have banned casinos, so Minsk could be a cosy little capital in which to host them.

In the end business will do the talking. Berlusconi and Lukashenka are moguls who combine their private interests with those of the state. Never mind the explanations.


Partners: Social Network