Joerg Forbrig: EU ambassadors should leave Belarus
13:56, — Politics
The pressure on the ”ugly” Belarusian dictatorship should become harder.
This is the position of Joerg Forbrig, the Director of the Fund for Belarus Democracy of the German Marshall Fund, that he shared with Radio Svaboda:
- Why do you think the Belarusian powers have expelled the Swedish ambassador?
- Stefan Eriksson was a well-known diplomat. He represents a country that constantly critiques Lukashenka’s regime. He has an excellent reputation and relationships with the democratic civil society. And his Belarusian is probably better than the Belarusian leaders’.
For all these reasons, he has been a problem for the Belarusian powers for a long time. He became their target for the first time last autumn, when the Belarusian media accused the Swedish embassy of a mysterious information leak which resulted in EU internal correspondence made public.
And the recent PR-move of the Swedish team, who flew over Belarus and threw down teddy bears with notes calling to protect freedom of speech, was too embarrassing for the Belarusian air defense system, widely promoted by Russia. It gave the official Minsk a reason to send the unwanted ambassador back to Stockholm.
- In your opinion, will other EU ambassadors leave Belarus in solidarity with Eriksson?
- Just like in spring, when the Belarusian powers expelled the Polish and other EU ambassadors, a proper reply from the EU would be to recall all ambassadors (it will be the second similar incident to happen within several months), and send all Belarusian ambassadors to the EU countries back to Minsk for consultations. A working diplomatic mission can be restored only when Stefan Eriksson receives credentials again and take his place as the Swedish ambassador to Minsk.
Otherwise the European Union basically gives the Belarusian powers the right to choose EU ambassadors, which is unacceptable interference.
Nevertheless, the Belarusian powers have timed the expulsion perfectly with the summer vacation period in the European Union. Let’s see if European politicians are capable to re-arrange their diplomatic forces now when the political activity is so low.
- Will the EU expand economic sanctions against the Belarusian regime?
- Recently a number of EU politicians have said that further expansion of the economic and political sanctions against Lukashenka’s regime was not on the agenda.
The expulsion of Stefan Eriksson is another argument (along with the 14 political prisoners who are still in jail; recent arrests of activists of the ecologic movement; and the procedure of parliamentary voting which is still not entirely democratic) in favor of a harder pressure from the EU on the Belarusian powers.
The list of hostile acts committed by the Belarusian powers against their people, against those who strive for democratic changes in Belarus, and against those who want to see Belarus as a democratic and European country of the world, is growing every day. This is unacceptable.
And the only effective way to prove it to those in Minsk who are responsible for such decisions, is to harden the pressure. All attempts to change the situation through cooperation failed. During the last year and a half, the EU finally has found a proper direction, but it should go even further. The EU should focus on those enterprises that have increased their export to the EU, which only supports this ugly dictatorship.
- How will this conflict affect the program European dialogue on Modernisation?
- This initiative of EU Commissioner Štefan Füle is an indispensable element of European support for those who long for changes and can help deliver ideas, programs and people before the reforms are launched. The initiative itself cannot lead to any changes. All EU’s attempts to push the powers to start a liberalization process failed, which shows that the changes are possible only in one case: if Lukashenka and his accomplices leave.
Thus, the main goal is not the modernization, but a complete power change in Belarus. And this goal demands great firmness, from the EU as well. It is not enough to negotiate with Minsk behind the curtains; it only results in the Belarusian powers agreeing on minor concessions. We need an overall strategy.
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