Monday

21st Aug 2017

Opinion

Belarus report: EU parliament risks encouraging dictator

The report on EU policy on Belarus drafted by Lithuanian centre-left MEP Justas Paleckis is soon to be voted on by the foreign affairs committee in the European Parliament.

It is the first report of its kind and will be perceived as a position of the European Parliament concerning overall EU policy on Belarus.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Lukashenka (l) maintains a firm grip on power despite EU moves to weaken the regime (Photo: Presidencia de la Republica del Ecuador)

It is clear the report has an important role to play, even if in procedural terms it does not directly influence decisions of the Council of the EU, the European Commission and the European External Action Service.

It will send a message to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka's regime, to civil society and business in Belarus, as well as to governments, parliaments, NGOs and businesses in EU member states.

Previous experience shows that such political documents are often referred to and cited at different levels as the will and position of the legislative branch of the European Union. Their provisions are actively used as arguments in discussions.

Many paragraphs in the draft report and especially many amendments proposed by MEPs from different political factions contain important and useful proposals on further EU policy on Belarus, including demands of systemic change in human rights, rule of law and democratic institutions.

Equally important are proposals on more effective assistance to civil society and independent media and on unilateral EU steps on the facilitation of the visa regime.

However, a number of proposals in the draft report and in the amendments cause a lot of concern among those in the parliament and civil society who advocate for an EU policy regarding “the last dictatorship in Europe” to be based on international human rights norms and democratic values.

These worrisome proposals may undermine the firm and generally consistent EU policy in respect of the Lukashenka regime.

Some of these proposals reproduce myths and misconceptions which are actively promoted by the regime’s lobbyists, who are increasingly active on the European scene.

In particular, it is harmful to call for reopening of political dialogue and broadening of economic co-operation with the Lukashenka regime, treating political prisoners as almost an annoying obstacle blocking the bright prospect of better economic relations.

It is almost indecent to try as soon as possible to get over the crackdown which happened in Minsk on 19 December 2010. It is also self-deception to see the facade of liberalisation in 2009-2010 as a true change in EU-Belarus relations and to seek a return to it.

The parliament should get rid of illusions about the civilising role of business in regard of the dictatorial regime and stop calling for the development of full-scale economic co-operation before the human rights situation sees serious and measurable progress in the country.

This kind of development in relations with the EU is exactly what the regime wants to help it maintain the status quo without making any real change in the country and to successfully carry on beyond elections in 2015, freezing the situation in Belarus for a long period.

It is important that after the EU suspended last week its travel ban on Belarusian minister of foreign affairs Vladimir Makay, no more steps are taken by the EU that would be interpreted by the Lukashenka regime as further unilateral concessions along the lines of what the regime calls “pragmatic dialogue” - namely expansion of trade relations and increased EU investments in Belarusian enterprises on the regime’s own conditions.

If anyone is still under an illusion about Lukashenka’s good will for dialogue, so frequently declared by Belarusian deputy foreign minister Elena Kupchina, or about “discernible improvement in human rights situation in Belarus in 2012-2013” as described in Paleckis’ report, one must pay attention to a conviction just three days ago in Belarus of a new political prisoner, Andrei Gaidukou, found guilty of “attempts to contact foreign secret services."

The lesson that is to be learned by the EU is that advance payments to the Lukashenka regime are never paid back.

It is very important to reiterate a position of the European Parliament on non-recognition of the “parliament” of Belarus as not elected in free and fair elections.

Calls for official expansion of inter-parliamentary contacts either in bilateral format or in the context of the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly will be used by the regime to legitimise the illegitimate body appointed by the ruler and to demonstrate the “weakness” of the European Union.

The current goal of the regime is to make a breakthrough at the "Eastern Partnership" summit in Vilnius in November, to get on an equal footing with other Eastern Partnership countries while keeping political prisoners behind bars or exchanging them for loans and economic assistance from the West.

Lukashenka wants to demonstrate that he is capable of “bending” a weak and greedy EU.

This would be a terrible and discouraging message to all those in Belarus who struggle for a democratic change.

It would also be inhumane in regards of the political prisoners who face tremendous psychological and physical pressure by the regime in order to break them down and make them admit their "guilt."

The parliament should not to assist the regime in realisation of these plans.

The message that should be sent to the Lukashenka regime is simple: If it wants a dialogue, it should first be about implementation of all (and not selective) international human rights obligations, starting with the release and exoneration of all political prisoners and the end of repression against civil society, independent journalists, lawyers and political opposition.

After that many things may become possible, but not before.

This is what the European Parliament's report on Belarus should be about.

Olga Zakharova and Yuri Dzhibladze work for the Committee for International Control over the Human Rights Situation in Belarus

Belarus tightens grip on political prisoners

As the Nobel peace prize nominee and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski continues to languish away in a penal colony in Belarus, his compatriots in Brussels attempt to secure his freedom and those of 10 other political prisoners.

EU needs lasting solution to refugee crisis

If we continue with the failed approach of the last two years then this could become a systemic crisis that threatens the EU itself, writes Gianni Pittella.

Young Poles can halt Kaczynski’s illiberal march

Debates are ongoing on whether president Duda vetoing two out of three bills on judicial reform should be seen as the opposition's success. But the protests brought about another, much less disputed success.

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

Column / Brexit Briefing

The return of the chlorinated chicken

Britain has only just started on the path towards a post-Brexit trade deal with the US, but you can already see the same all-too-familiar disagreements.

Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis

If you were to judge events purely on the US media's headlines, you would be forgiven for wondering if the Polish government had anything to do with its recent controversial judicial reforms.

News in Brief

  1. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  2. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  3. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  4. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week
  5. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  6. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  7. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  8. European Union returns to 2 percent growth

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead