Lukashenko prompts dialogue with EU
13:06, By Anton Khodasevich, Nezavisimaya Gazeta — Politics
Belarusian diplomats traveled to Slovenia on Monday to discuss the development of Belarus-EU relations.
Lidia Yermoshina, chair of Belarus’s Central Election Commission, plans to visit Vienna next week.
Officially, the Belarusian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Yelena Kupchina, is going to Ljubljana for the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Belarus and Slovenia, but they are also planning to discuss ways of promoting dialogue with the EU and developing economic and investment cooperation with Slovenia.
Lidia Yermoshina will attend the OSCE meeting on Democratic Elections and Election Observation in Vienna on July 12-13. Routine invitations were sent to the Belarusian CEC, but its delegates were denied visas because of the widespread election fraud.
Belarusian experts noted some time ago that Minsk and Brussels are conducting secret talks, but they refused to speculate about their content. “I have no opinion of the behind-the-scene processes because I can’t see any results,” said human rights activist Yelena Tonkacheva. “Government opponents are still behind bars.” However, President Alexander Lukashenko’s recent statements suggest that Belarus at least wants to create the semblance of leaning toward Europe to make Russia more compliant at the talks, and at best, gain maximum benefit from releasing political prisoners – one by one. “European diplomats are waiting for a political amnesty,” Lukashenko told his foreign minister, Sergei Martynov, in May. “We are waiting for practical moves from the West, from the European Union. The ball is in their court.” The Belarusian president has said this repeatedly since the country’s “main” political prisoner – his opponent at the presidential election Andrei Sannikov – was released in mid-April. But Europe rejected the formula, stating that dialogue with Belarus would only be possible after all its political prisoners have been released. Recent evidence of Europe’s firm stance on the matter includes resolutions on human rights by the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament, as well as the UN Human Rights Council’s decision to appoint a special rapporteur on Belarus.
The Belarusian opposition has a negative attitude to the behind-the-scenes talks and the EU visits by Belarusian officials. “This is proof of the unscrupulousness of international organizations and their misguided belief that Belarusian officials can be forced to change,” said Viktor Korneyenko, co-chairman of the movement For Honest Elections. They will only regard this as a license to continue with their falsifications.
Official Belarusian statements show that the authorities consider their position to be quite strong. Andrei Yevdochenko, the Belarusian ambassador to Belgium and its representative at the EU, speaking yesterday about the new EU dialogue on modernization with Belarusian society said: “We will only work within programs that have been drafted and coordinated jointly with us. Belarus was not invited to participate in the drafting of this program.”
Belarus’s audacity in its relations with Europe can be explained by the success of its Russian policy. Experts believe that Lukashenko is only pretending to talk with the West to ensure access to Russian energy and markets.