Wednesday

15th Aug 2018

EU ambassadors returning to Belarus

  • Minsk - EU diplomats say the ambassadors' return does not mean relations have improved (Photo: joquel)

EU ambassadors are to return en bloc to Belarus shortly after the Easter break, unless President Alexander Lukashenko does something drastic in the meantime.

EU diplomats say the decision was made behind closed doors in Brussels earlier this week.

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"Inshallah. I do not have my instructions yet, but I expect to get them on Monday (2 April)," one EU country's Belarus ambassador told this website.

The EU envoys left in February in an act of solidarity with the EU and Polish ambassadors in Minsk, who were kicked out by Lukashenko.

Quite a bit has happened in Belarus-EU relations in the past four weeks.

The EU imposed more sanctions, including on a close friend of Lukashenko (but they let one of his key firms off the hook). Lukashenko executed two young men he called "terrorists" but everyone else calls innocent. And he made a list of some 150 dissidents who are not allowed to leave the country.

"This [the EU envoys' return] will happen if the Belarusians behave correctly. Of course, this raises the question of what is 'correctly'? But normally, it should happen," another EU diplomat said.

Lukashenko on Wednesday stopped three dissidents - Alyaksandr Atroshchankau, Syarhei Kalyakin and Anatol Lyabedzka - from going to a symposium with EU commissioner Stefan Fuele in Brussels.

One Belarusian activist said the Fuele event was in result "full" of pro-Lukashenko "lobbyists."

It was not enough to stall the EU ambassadors' return. But if something more serious happens - for instance, if hunger-striker Syarhey Kavalenka dies - the ambassadors could stay away.

The EU diplomat quoted above said the ambassadors' return should not be seen as a political reward: "We are ready to impose more sanctions if the situation does not improve."

A third EU diplomat said: "It helps us to work more effectively in Belarus, to have better quality reporting, if the ambassadors are there."

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