Friday

6th Aug 2021

EU offers to buy Belarus for $9bn

EU leaders have promised authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko $9 billion if he frees political prisoners and holds normal elections.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk unveiled the offer at a press event at an EU summit with post-Soviet countries in Warsaw on Friday (30 September). The money would come in the form of loans from two EU banks, the EIB and EBRD, and from the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Lukashenko would not have to step down as part of the deal. But he would have to free political prisoners and, later on, hold EU-and-US-recognised elections, which would most likely see him ejected.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"For the first time we see a situation in which the EU, very decisively and in a spirit of solidarity, makes help for Belarus conditional on tangible changes. These are not radical changes. This is the bare minimum that any European person expects," Tusk said.

The EU's offer comes amid an economic crisis in the former Soviet republic. But Lukashenko has shown no interest so far.

He refused to send an ambassador to join the 25-or-so EU and post-Soviet leaders in Warsaw. The Poles set up an empty chair and a Belarus name tag to symbolise their invitation despite his snub.

The last time the EU proposed money for reforms - $3 billion in December - Lukashenko reacted with a violent purge on opposition, which saw police manhandle EU ambassadors on the streets of Minsk. The last time the IMF lent him money to stabilise the rubel, he spent part of it on bigger wages for officials in the run-up to elections.

EU countries in Warsaw also signed a declaration condemning repression in Belarus. But the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine refused to add their names. Diplomats say Georgia feared revenge in the form of Belarus' recognition of its breakaway provinces. Ukraine feared trade problems with its neighbour.

EU leaders again warned Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, who was in Warsaw, not to jail his political rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, if he wants an EU trade and political association pact to ever come into life.

The same day in Kiev prosecutors said she should get seven years for an allegedly illegal gas deal with Russia. Polish diplomats were worried she might be jailed on the day of the summit. But the judge put off the verdict until 11 October.

The Warsaw event was designed to promote the Eastern Partnership policy - a mixed bag of visa and trade pacts, as well as mini-projects like training post-Soviet civil servants in a new academy in Poland, designed to pull the countries closer to the West.

Tusk noted that while the summit declaration "acknowledged" the "European aspirations" of "some" of the six nations, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine had hoped for an explicit promise of future accession. "We don't today have strong enough signals to say this, neither from the EU side, nor from the side of our partners," Tusk explained, referring to enlargement fatigue in the union and inadequate reforms in the EU aspirants.

For his part, Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, speaking alongside Tusk, made clear some EU countries see the Eastern Partnership as preparation for future expansion. "The Eastern Partnership project will perhaps one day merge with the Balkan project," he said, referring to existing EU commitments to take in former Yugoslav countries.

The summit made Tusk look like an international statesman in the run-up to Polish elections on 9 October.

EU commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso praised his "exceptional leadership." Orban said he was "wonderful and brave." Tusk's pro-EU Civic Platform party currently leads the eurosceptic Law and Justice opposition by 12 points in polls.

Lukashenko's 'private banker' to face EU ban

A tycoon identified as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's personal bag man is likely to see three of his companies frozen out of doing business in the EU.

Ukraine trial restarts on eve of EU summit

Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko will return to court at 3pm Kiev time on Tuesday in a trial that could decide the country's political and economic future.

EU sanctions causing pain for Lukashenko

EU countries are probing who else to hit with sanctions in Lukashenko's nomenklatura. But the existing blacklist is already causing discontent inside his ranks.

Opinion

Belarus as a permanent challenge for the EU

A new project for economic integration proposed by Russia's prime minister to create a Eusian Union based on the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus is a major challenge for the European Union.

News in Brief

  1. EU secures deal with Novavax for potential Covid-19 vaccine
  2. France fined €10m for failing to tackle air pollution
  3. Fire near Athens forces thousands to evacuate
  4. EU to Lebanon: 'deliver results' on Beirut blast probe
  5. Belarus opposition leader demands regime end
  6. Croatia's border-monitoring of migrant rights 'falls short'
  7. Court stops Austria's Afghan deportation, as conflict worsens
  8. 'Missing' Belarus exiles group chief found dead in Kyiv

Opinion

Montenegro's membership can inspire the European Dream

Today (15 December) I come to Brussels with a simple purpose: to present the credentials of my country, Montenegro, to become the next member state of the European Union, writes prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic.

Interview

Does North Macedonia really exist?

Its language and history give North Macedonia its identity for president Stevo Pendarovski, but, for Bulgaria, neither of them are real, in a dispute holding up EU enlargement.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. Italy seeks EU help on migrant boat arrivals
  2. WHO calls for vaccine-booster pause to help poor countries
  3. Romania selling on its jabs, despite low vaccination rates
  4. Cyprus' Varosha is Erdogan's canary in the coalmine
  5. Europe sees drop in Covid-19 cases
  6. Burkinis and 'soul caps' - policing Olympic women back in fashion
  7. Telegram groups lure migrant hopefuls to Lithuania
  8. Third-time lucky for one Syrian grandmother in Denmark

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us