It is pointless to speak of the participation of dictatorial Belarus in the Eastern Partnership.
Such statements could be heard during a discussion at Lithuania’s MFA on the situation in this country. Its participants noted that a strategy was needed, and the EU should learn from the past attempts to have a dialogue with the regime. At the same time, in the speakers’ opinion, Belarus’ civil society should be involved in the European orbit, a Lithuanian web-site ru.DELFI.lt reports.
In the framework of an international conference “Future policy strategy on Belarus” at Lithuania’s MFA a discussion took part today on the topic “Between East and West: Belarus on the way to Eastern Partnership?” with the participation of Lithuanian and foreign experts as well as representatives of Belarusian opposition. Minsk’s official representatives did not show up for the event.
Lithuania’s vice-Foreign Minister Andrius Krivas noted that Belarus was not only close to Lithuania geographically, but historically and culturally. Apart from that he singled out the importance of economic contacts.
“That is why we are discontented with what is taking place in this country – violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which complicates the relations between the EU and Belarus, - he noted, having added that Lithuania remains a true supporter f Belarus’ engagement. – We hope that Belarus will use Lithuania’s EU Council presidency for achieving new quality of relations with the EU”.
It was supposed that the head of Belarus’ MFA Uladzimir Makej and his deputy Alena Kupchyna would take part in the forum. However, the neighboring country’s officials did not arrive to the event. That is what a former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, a representative of Marshal Foundation Pavol Demesh took notice of.
Having read out the topic of the discussion, he claimed: “Belarus was never on, in not now and will it never be on the way to the Eastern Partnership, while Lukashenka remains the president of this country”.
He took notice of the fact that among other Eastern Partnership countries Belarus is the only one not a member of the Council of Europe. He is convinced that Lukashenka is incapable of changing.
“We come to Lukashenka’s world, which is based on lies, and try to match it to our paradigm and get something out of that. (. . . ) We may meet, talk, discuss, but these are two incompatible realities”, - the expert said.
According to him, if it is a partnership, then one should behave as a partner, whereas Belarus has not been acting this ways from the very beginning. In his opinion, the same goes for the talks on engaging Belarus. As for the dialogue on modernization with Belarus Pavol Demesh was also flat – “there is neither a dialogue, nor modernization”.
“But we constantly repeat that, calling this a dialogue on modernization. I do not understand this, - he confessed. – (. . .) If Mr. Makej had been present in this room, I would have asked him: what would you go to the summit for?”
The leaders of Belarus’ United Civic Party Anatol Labiedzka in turn was glad for the forum to be taking place in Vilnius, having compared Lithuania’s capital to the “amplifying equipment that significantly amplifies the voice speaking on Belarusian issues”.
In his opinion, Belarus is not moving towards the Eastern Partnership. The politician suggested re-formulating the question: what should be done in order for such movement to happen?
“There is demand for the Eastern Partnership in Belarus, - the oppositionist said. – If there are people in this room, who are convinced that Lukashenka cannot be changed, then why do we have such problems with developing a strategy?”
He suggested his strategy: “release and exoneration of political prisoners, free and fair elections”.
“I insist on this suggestion, because if we put a full stop after its first part, then we will only solve the problem for now, and it will necessarily arise again tomorrow. There is one way out – free and fair elections”, - the Belarusian oppositionist claimed.
Labiedzka called “the attempt to buy Makej a ticket to the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius” not a most successful political decision.
“When an exemption from the rule becomes stronger than the rule itself, it means that the rule is wrong. In my view, such a list should be a lively reflection of the event taking place”, - he concluded.
“In the recent years Lukashenka has been quite effectively using a pendulum policy swinging between the East and the West, but the field for maneuver has been getting narrower year after year”, - the deputy head of the Belarusian Movement for Freedom Jury Hubarevich stated.
According to him, the agreement on Eurasian Economic Union could take place in two years, which would become a point of no return for participation in European initiatives. He called ineffective the EU’s policy towards Belarus and highlighted that with Lukashenka in power official Minsk is not interested in meeting the EU half way.
In turn the leader of the European Belarus civic campaign, a former political prisoner and a presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov reminded of the words of the head of German-Belarusian association Rainer Lindner that he had said at the opening of the conference.
“We cannot hold the Minsk forum in Minsk, when our friends are in prison. I am thankful to you for tour words. This is not a symbolical gesture, but big support, this sends solidarity signals as well as the signals to the government that far from everything is alright”, - Andrei Sannikov said.
He confessed that once he thought skeptically of the emergence of the Eastern Partnership, since for his it “sounded like a challenge to Russia and looked like a geopolitical plan of opposing Russian in these territories”.
“The EU was inevitably to face the situation that it faces today. (. . .) I am glad that Europe started showing solidarity when there is pressure on the Eastern Partnership countries – Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine”, - the politician emphasized.
As for Belarus, he agreed with the words of Pavol Demesh on its incompatibility with the Eastern Partnership with Lukashenka in power.
He noted that “Belarus could sign the agreement, be present at the summit in a different rile, and the Minsk forum would take place in Minsk”, but, according to the politician, the EU did not use its opportunities for changing the situation in Belarus.
“It seems to me that it is very important to understand why this did not happen. It is important to understand, what could have been done, because, I think, an opportunity window will appear again, despite all the difficulties”, - Sannikov summarized.
He urged everyone to reach a common denominator and develop behavior logic: “The dictator cannot be changed, we should act according to a different plan”.
“In general terms, there should be a tough line regarding the dictator, and engagement of people into the (European) community by the means of solving the visa issue and education programs”, - Sannikov stated.
We would remind that the international conference “Future policy strategy on Belarus” took place in Vilnius on 28-29 October.
The photo by Pavol Demes, specially for charter97.org