18 January 2018, Thursday, 20:39

Uta Zapf: Lukashenka is a criminal


There will be no changes in Belarus while a dictator remains in power.

Uta Zapf, a Bundestag’s member from the Social-Democratic part of Germany, said that in an interview to Deutsche Welle. For 15 years she has been heading the German-Belarusian parliamentary group and for several recent years – a special working group of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (PA OSCE) on Belarus. Zapf has decided recently not to run for a new term in the parliament. However Belarus has been and remains a pain spot for her, the German politician stated in an interview to Deutsche Welle when summing up her activities.  

- Why Belarus, a European Union’s neighbor country, is perceived more distant than, for example, New Zealand by many Europeans, including Germans?

- May be it is because of the somewhat weird president who has led the country so far from European standards? I am sure that the country’s image is defined by the dictatorial regime of Lukashenka, that is why Europeans, including Germans, consider it so unattractive.

- How did you get along with Belarusian parliamentarians? Do they express their own opinion at points? Are they allowed to have their own opinion?

- I assume, they are not. At least I never met anyone who would say anything different from what the PM’s are prescribed to say from above. We know whom they promote as parliamentarians and which methods are used to oust undesired candidates. Only those remain, who obediently dance to Lukashenka’s fiddle.

- The European Union and Germany tried to use carrots as well as sticks in their relations with Minsk. What was more effective - the policy of sanctions or the policy of rapprochement via a dialogue?

- In my opinion, neither brought about anything. Now we do not have any more sanctions at our disposal, because the sanctions which would affect common citizens are unacceptable to us. But they do not want a carrot in Minsk either.

How many extremely attractive offers were made by Germany and the European Union! There were assistance in developing the infrastructure, and know how transfer, and assistance in building a jural state, whatnot. Minsk needed to only agree. But Lukashenka and his team said no. Neither the sanctions scared them, nor the suggestions tempted. I think that the main issue here is that for Lukashenka the main task is to stay in power.

- Excuse me for a personal question, but do not you get desperate sometimes?

- Yes. I am not full of pessimism. For the long years that I went to Belarus I met so many wonderful people. It is painful to me that they have to live in such a country under such oppression. The people are wonderful, they spare no efforts to help each other.

Non-governmental organizations support each other, help political prisoners, who tried to stand for their civic and political rights or fought for the freedom of media. But neither have they achieved anything. On the contrary, the situation is that it is high time to go into a depression. So sometimes I actually get desperate because we have not managed to achieve anything.

- You party-mate, a chancellor candidate from the Social-Democratic Party of Germany PeerSteinbrück has recently brought numerous complaints for calling Italian politicians Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi clowns. No one objected the essence of the matter, but a chancellor candidate does not befit to talk like that about foreign politicians. How would you call Aliaksandr Lukashenka?

- I would call him a criminal.