19 November 2018, Monday, 2:05
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Dutch foreign minister doesn’t want to shake hands with Europe’s last dictator

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An issue of EU-Belarus relations is to be discussed at an informal meeting of the EU foreign ministers opening in Czech Hluboká on March 27.

As the European Union press service reports, the ministers are supposed to address the situation in the Middle East, the ESDP civilian mission and Belarus. On March 28, they will discuss the situation in the Western Balkans together with foreign ministers of Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia.

It is planned that no official documents will be adopted. “The aim of Gymnich has always been to offer an informal platform for a thorough discussion of several current or sensitive issues,” the EU press room reports.

It should be reminded that on March 20, the EU leaders approved the Eastern Partnership program, in which 6 post-Soviet countries, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, will take part.

However, a question of whether Alyaksandr Lukashenka should be invited for a summit, launching the program, on May 7 hasn’t been decided yet. This issue is expected to be discussed at Gymnich.

A discussion over Belarus was initiated by the Netherlands, Radio Svaboda reports with reference to European mass media. Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen has repeatedly spoken for tightening sanctions against the Belarusian authorities. Verhagen stood against visa moratorium on Alyaksandr Lukashenka and high-ranking Belarusian officials on 9 months during the latest meeting of EU ministers on Brussels.

According to Maxime Verhagen, inclusion of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership initiative doesn’t exclude the fact that Lukashenka may take part in the EU summit in May. This could cause some embarrassment to EU leaders, who could find themselves in the uncomfortable situation of having to shake hands with the man still widely viewed as “Europe's last dictator”.