It is absolutely wrong, futile and immoral to lift sanctions against the Belarusian regime, a French political scientist believes.
“The pivotal motive of imposing sanctions against Belarus was a desire “to brand and condemn” the regime because of disproportional use of force against protesters in the streets, cruel arrest of more than 700 persons, arbitrary deprivation of freedom of the n presidential candidates taking part in the presidential election, and sentencing them to long prison terms,” Regnum news agency was told by Anaïs Marin, a French political scientist from the Finnish Institute of International Relations.
The EU imposes sanctions against the regime because of the ongoing crackdown on the opposition, independent mass media and human rights activists, which is as such a violation of international agreements signed by Belarus, the expert states. According to the political scientist, the sanctions are not aimed at discrediting of Alyaksandr Lukashenka, they pursue only one principle aim – to improve the human rights situation in Belarus, which primarily means unconditional release and full rehabilitation of all political prisoners. “Thus, one can say that the sanctions have not been successful in achieving their aim: dozens of political prisoners are undergoing an inhuman treatment in prisons,” Anaïs Marin emphasized.
This is the reason of the debate on sanctions which continues in Brussels, as well as inside the Belarusian opposition community, provoked by a questionable statement of the head of the Office for Democratic Belarus (Brussels) Volha Stuzhynskaya in favour of easing the measures, which had already been supported by the respected intellectuals like Alyaksei Pikulik, an expert of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies. This idea has split political analysts into two camps.
According to the political analyst, one camp consists of those who believe that sanctions should be mitigates (at least, formally, for instance, to cross out some names from the visa ban blacklist), in order to restart the dialogue with Minsk. They hope, the political scientist believes, that communications, economic cooperation and prospects of the long-awaited-for “normalization” of bilateral relations would nudge Lukashenka’s regime towards voluntary steps towards democratization. “But I believe it is absolutely wrong, futile and immoral: dictatorships do not democratize, they become mimetic in order to lengthen their existence,” the expert stated.
“Arguments in favour of the opinion that sanctions would bring Belarus back into the orbit of Russia, are not considered convincing by me either: have the regime ever left the orbit of Russia’s sphere of influence? And how pro-European Belarus will be after Lukashenka? It remains an open question. I think that beside Poland, there is not a single country in the EU which would seriously consider Belarus’ joining the EU in the near future,” Anaïs Marin said. The EU interests, as said by her, are neither aimed at further expansion (otherwise Moldova and Ukraine would have been officially recognized as candidates for admission), nor at maximal drift between Belarus and Russia.
“I think the majority of the EU countries’ leaders, consciously or not, agree with the idea that Belarus would remain a “buffer” between the EU and Russia, and there are some leaders among them who accept the idea (which had not been vocalized yet, and to my mind which could cause disapproval), that the Kremlin should be allowed “to deal with the problem of Lukashenka” “at the moment and in the way Russia would find acceptable”, the expert noted.
“The European Union cannot allow it to be taken in by Russia, as it would create an extremely dangerous precedent for the stability of the entire continent. As for this prospect, I think that the further economic and military integration of Belarus into Eurasian projects headed by Russia would extremely decrease chances of Belarusian citizens to live in accordance with the common laws of democracy and the rule of law, and at the same time would even more postpone the chances for modernization of the Belarusian economy. Thus, I support the idea of strengthening the ties, including the trade ones, of the EU with its Eastern neighbours including Belarus, though to give a hand to Belarus as a country without giving it to the Belarusian leaders would call for political magic from Brussels,” the political scientist said.
Returning to the current debate, Anaïs Marin said, in the other camp we find experts who admit that the EU should in real earnest consider the ways of increasing efficiency of their diplomacy of compulsion. I believe it demands increasing the repressive force of sanctions, through the use of economic boycott, for instance. In other words, I assert that part of responsibility for failure of the sanctions against Belarus rests on the EU itself, and especially on some its members, who refuse to admit priority of pan-European values, democracy and the principle of solidarity of the EU over own national interests. Collective sanctions will never achieve their aim in case people from Lukashenka “clan” are going to be sure that they would be bale to address loyal friends in Vilnius, Berlin, Paris, Vienna or Rome to support “usual business”, no matter whether in is connected with hidden advantageous contracts or high-level diplomatic cooperation,” the political scientist believes.
Anaïs Marin used a concrete example. “Take a recent visit of the Belarusian Interior Affairs Minister Anatoly Kulyashou to Lyons to Interpol meeting, though he is on the list of persons who cannot receive a EU visa (which is logical, as he is a Number 1 policeman in Belarus). France issued a visa for Kulyashou on the request of the Interpol. “Free Belarus Now!” organization, which represents families of political prisoners, filed a complaint to Paris Tribunal, demanding to bring Kulyashou to responsibility for arbitrary arrests of citizens and for tortures committed by his subordinates, which had been reported by some political prisoners over the last year to the UN Committee against Torture. Nevertheless, Kulyashou returned to Minsk safely. If in France, in “the country of civil rights”, the international police cooperation with the police regime means more than an opportunity of the French police to arrest people committing crimes under French (and international) laws, then the policy of Western sanctions is unlikely to impress Lukashenka and his retinue. It is not an isolated case, in 2011 Italy and Lithuania also gave visas to Belarusian citizens from the black list.
In conclusion Anaïs Marin said that she believes that the EU sanctions are counterproductive and thinks that they should be stepped up by including new names on the lists who cannot receive a visa, and on the lists for freezing money assets. “It shows one more sphere where the EU could step up sanctions: by making other European governments (countries candidates for the EU joining, the ЕАСТ and probably “Eastern partners”) to follow the policy of sanctions as well. The aim of the EU is to “smother Lukashenka’s regime, and this measure is necessary in such a case,” she stressed.
Besides, as said by the political analyst, “the restrictive measures” – the official formulation of the EU – should include more economic sanctions aimed against state-owned companies.
On top of that, according to Anaïs Marin, discussions in the EU about Belarus cannot concern the sanctions only. “The government of the country deserves “a stick”, but there should also be fair “carrots” for the population, which lives in a sociopolitical system which is inevitably approaching its collapse, as it is economically unviable, whether the population realizes that or not. For more than 17 years citizens of Belarus had been repeated that they are living in a dreamlike country under the protection of a loving “father”. Belarusians should be informed what is expecting them at the end of the tunnel, but they should receive access to unbiased information from independent mass media for that.”
As the expert said, the Western democracies should make this information available for an average citizen of Belarus, and in a unilateral procedure to cancel visa fees for conscientious Belarusian citizens who want to go to the EU to study and to work. “It would not only undermine the polemics of Lukashenka directed against the EU (according to which the EU sanctions do harm to citizens of Belarus), but would also promote the image of the EU as a supporter of grassroots democracy, democracy through people’s contacts,” Anaïs Marin said.