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EU4Energy: Public Consultations in Belarusian Energy Sector

On 10 October 2018 in Minsk, Belarus, the Energy Charter Secretariat together with the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Belarus and the EU Delegation to Belarus held a communication workshop on stakeholder consultation and inter-ministerial coordination. The goal of the event was to provide support to the Ministry of Energy in developing its own procedure for organising public participation in the policy-making process of the country’s energy sector. Belarus’s current practice of using Public Advisory Councils forms an ideal basis that can be built upon. The workshop objectives stem from the assessment that direct dialogue and consistent communication with all stakeholders would generate a more predictable and transparent environment where interested parties could better understand the rationale that underpins the government’s decisions and intentions. Likewise, public consultations can also better inform the Ministry of Energy about public needs as it prepares policies.

In this respect, EU4Energy provided tailor-made recommendations in the form of a “Code of Good Practice” for Belarus. It lays out a step-by-step approach where the Ministry of Energy would adopt a coordinating role in setting up a communication channel with external stakeholders. This would entail identifying potential actors outside government institutions, initiating regular meetings to exchange information, and supporting the establishment of informal working groups dedicated to discussing specific topics in the energy sector. In turn, outcomes from the working groups could feed into the formulation of ‘green papers’, the inception of draft law projects and the discussions of the Public Advisory Council, which is an already existing formal consultative body within the Ministry of Energy. Two other key suggestions include a commitment to hold regular, timely public consultations from the very beginning of the law-making process and the creation of a formal practice, through which employees of the Ministry of Energy could adequately respond to public comments regarding draft laws.

The workshop was composed of an interactive session following the presentations where participants broke out into small groups to discuss their understanding of what would constitute successful stakeholder consultations. It included officials from the Ministry of Energy, external energy experts and representatives from NGOs as well as other organisations. At the end of the workshop, the attendees agreed to meet further to continue discussing the prospects of improving stakeholder consultations in the Belarusian energy sector.

EU4Energy is an EU-funded technical assistance programme designed to support Eastern Partnership countries in improving the rules and regulations governing their respective energy sectors. In addition to Belarus, the Energy Charter Secretariat is also cooperating closely with Armenia and Azerbaijan to identify best practices in the EU that could correspond to each country’s particular energy goals, needs and situations.