Friday

15th Dec 2017

Opinion

Lukashenko: no longer a troublemaker?

  • Lukashenko was actively engaged in the peace process designed to resolve the conflict in east Ukraine (Photo: kremlin.ru)

On 15 February, EU foreign ministers will decide about the future of sanctions against Belarus. This decision may seem surprising as, even a year ago, no one could imagine that not only the abolition, but even the suspension of sanctions against Belarus could be discussed.

This is all the more so as Belarusian authorities had been accused of human rights violations and violation of the right to assembly, while the authorities were holding more than a dozen political prisoners, some of whom were President Alexander Lukashenko’s opponents during the presidential campaign in 2010.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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.

Almost everything has changed due to the “Revolution of Dignity” of 2014 in Ukraine. Although Lukashenko has his disadvantages, his term has never led to the destabilisation of his country. What is more, the Belarusian president was actively engaged in the peace process designed to resolve the conflict in east Ukraine (Donbas).

In August 2015, Lukashenko also released all the people considered by the EU to be political prisoners. Also, the presidential election in October 2015 was held in a peaceful atmosphere. Thus the formal barrier to further contacts between the EU and Minsk disappeared.

However, the new EU strategy should take into account that the current Belarusian authorities are not interested in fully changing their foreign policy or in a formal association with the EU.

Minsk will seek other forms of “pragmatic” cooperation such as investment in infrastructure, economic and cross-border projects, and cooperation on higher education issues through the Bologna Process, which it recently joined. Belarus is also interested in visa facilitation, and in expanding the range of the MOST mobility programme.

Moreover, taking into account the current economic crisis in Belarus (decreasing foreign exchange reserves, the devaluation of the ruble and falling wages), contacts with EU countries, including financial support and the possibility of obtaining a loan from the IMF became crucial for Lukashenko.

At the same time it should be remembered that the Belarusian president has for years used the West as a tool for reducing dependence on Russia, but the EU has not so far been able to take advantage of this fact.

That is why it is crucial to decide how EU policy towards Belarus should look, especially as almost all the possibilities offered by EU policy, including talks, promises and financial sanctions, have already been tried. The EU has also made numerous mistakes, including the lack of long-term and consequently realised strategy towards Belarus and the failure to fulfil its promises.

First of all, if the EU decides to cooperate with Belarus it should also continue to support the independent political environment there, including NGOs and non-government media. It should be underlined to the Belarusian authorities that support for these segments of society is an important element of the EU’s cooperation with all of its neighbours, thus Belarus should not expect any sort of “preferential treatment” because of the broader political circumstances.

The EU should also emphasise that the proposed cooperation will not take place “at any cost”, and stress that real changes, related to economic and political reform, are required for further development. Moreover, any economic aid should be linked to the political situation inside Belarus.

The EU should also take advantage of the opportunities offered by infrastructure cooperation to extend its own legislation to Belarus. At the same time the EU should take an interest in strengthening Belarusian independence, especially as the current geopolitical situation means that the interests of both parties are, perhaps for the first time, almost identical.

All this means that sanctions should not be completely abolished, but remain in long-term suspension. Moreover, despite all doubts, associated primarily with Lukashenko’s governance, the EU should again engage in relations with Minsk, thus avoiding the serious international political sin of omission.

Anna Maria Dyner is the coordinator of the Eastern Europe Programme at the Polish Institute of International Affairs

Iceland: further from EU membership than ever

With fewer pro-EU MPs in the Iceland parliament than ever before, any plans to resume 'candidate' membership of the bloc are likely to remain on ice, as the country prioritises national sovereignty and a more left-wing path.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  2. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% plastics recycling rate attainable by 2025 new study shows
  3. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  4. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  5. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  6. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  8. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  9. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  10. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  12. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties

Latest News

  1. Estonia completes two out of three priority digital bills
  2. EU countries are not 'tax havens', parliament says
  3. Tech firms' delays mean EU needs rules for online terror
  4. Slovak PM: Human rights are not a travel pass to EU
  5. British PM limps to EU capital after Brexit defeat
  6. US pleads for clarity on Brexit aviation 'black hole'
  7. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  8. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  2. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  3. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  4. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  5. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  6. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  7. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  8. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  9. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  10. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  11. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  12. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives