Brussels needs a stronger and more effective agenda.
Former Prime Minister of Lithuania and MEP Andrius Kubilius suggests six main points for changes in democratic Belarus in his article for euobserver. The Charter97.org website offers a translation of the article from English:
Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the Belarusian democratic forces, during her address at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on 24 November 2021 said that the Belarusian democratic movement cannot afford to wait for Europe much longer and that European expression of solidarity and concern must now be transformed into concrete action. She emphasised that Europe needs to become more proactive when facing autocracy. With this statement, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has conveyed a wake-up call to the political community of the EU to have a bold and effective agenda of democratic change in Belarus.
The suggestions on the six point joint agenda, as presented below, were put on paper after the inspiring and intensive consultations in Strasbourg we held with Sviatlana, her team and MEP friends of democratic Belarus in the European Parliament. I believe these actions are the straight way forward for the EU together with democratic forces of Belarus to make the transformation to democracy possible.
Using international tribunals to seek justice for the people of Belarus
The EU must take real action to fight the impunity in Belarus enjoyed by Lukashenko and his regime; the EU institutions should lead the preparations together with the EU Member States to bring A. Lukashenko and collaborators of his illegal regime to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for crimes against Belarusian people, notably for offenses under the Convention against Torture; the EU institutions should also remind the Belarusian authorities that organising and sponsoring of illegal migrant smuggling into the EU territory is an international crime, and for this crime Mr Lukashenko and those involved must face criminal liability and be prosecuted under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which includes a legal opportunity to bring the Belarusian authorities to the International Court of Justice in the Hague for the breach of this Convention; the EU should start the proceedings to bring Lukashenko to international justice for the hijacking of the Ryanair plane in violations of the Chicago Convention, the Montreal Convention and other international agreements; the EU should coordinate with the Member States in their efforts to implement national universal jurisdiction instruments for bringing Belarusian perpetrators to justice.
Seizing the assets of Mr Lukashenko and his family
The EU together with international partners should take the lead in seizing the assets, including the ones hidden in Arab countries, held abroad by Mr Lukashenko and his family. As a first step in this direction, the EU should make a comprehensive report on the assets held by Mr Lukashenko and his entourage, as well as on the ones helping to reallocate these assets abroad. Everyone assisting in moving these assets abroad shall be subject to targeted sanctions from the EU.
Increasing sanctions to the ones who support Lukashenka and his regime: a message to the Kremlin
The EU should introduce targeted sanctions against the Kremlin regime and its oligarchs who support criminal activities of Mr Lukashenko; such sanctions should be introduced for at least: a) the Kremlin’s support to Lukashenko crimes in persecuting domestic opposition and civil society and b) the Kremlin’s support to Lukashenko crimes in initiating hybrid war on the external borders of the EU. The EU should also penalise Russian assets used directly and indirectly to interfere in democratic processes of Belarus. The EU institutions should make regular reports on Russia’s financial interference in Belarus, including in strategic sectors, and include information about assets of Mr Lukashenka and his entourage.
The EU should be sending a clear message to the Kremlin that any agreements with Lukashenko regime, such as related to the so-called “Union State” and further progressive destruction of Belarusian state sovereignty, are null and void, as an illegitimate Lukashenko regime has no right to take any decisions, especially those related to the sovereignty of the Belarusian people; the Kremlin’s attempts to implement annexation of Belarus should be met from the EU side with a clear threat to introduce the same sanctions against the Kremlin as in the case of illegal annexation of Crimea.
Seeking reconciliation for those in bureaucracy of the regime who were not involved in the crimes committed by the regime and are willing to cooperate in building a future for democratic Belarus
The EU must help democratic Belarus effectively assess and separate from the outset those Belarusian government officials who are tainted by the crimes of the Lukashenko regime and those who have escaped them; this can be done under the national truth and reconciliation initiative of democratic Belarus, which can use the reconciliation experiences of many former dictatorships, such as Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa[]; those government officials, who will prove through the truth and reconciliation programmes that they were not part of the Lukashenko regime crimes, should be invited to continue their work in democratic Belarus; those who have fled Belarus from the regime’s persecution or who have suffered the regime’s torture in prison, must take the responsibility from the outset for managing the reconciliation process in democratic Belarus.
Immediate launching of the EU Marshall plan to embrace democratic changes in Belarus
The Commission has approved a large-scale 3.5 billion “Marshall Plan” of financial and investment support for democratic Belarus, which has to be provided immediately after the democratic transition of power. Unfortunately, the public potential of this plan is not yet exploited to a full extent: there are no substantive and detailed discussions led by the EU institutions with the leaders of Belarusian democratic revolution regarding the implementation modalities of such a plan. The ordinary Belarusians know very little about the EU’s plans to help democratic Belarus after its transition.
It is therefore imperative that the representatives of the EU, together with Belarusian experts on democratic change, have to start immediately intensive public consultations on the modalities for the implementation of the Marshall Plan. The EU institutions have to engage with democratic Belarus on this matter right now. The EU has to engage in structured political dialogue on the reform and investment support aspects of the plan for Belarus and provide administrative and advocacy capacity building assistance to the democratic forces of Belarus involved in the preparations of the plan.
This will not only help Belarusians better understand the opportunities opened up by the Marshall Plan, but will also help them get better organised and used to the idea that after the democratic transition the European direction is a worthwhile choice for them. Such discussions could have a major impact on the mood of the Belarusian people today, on the democratic transition itself, and on the geopolitical direction they will be inclined to take after the democratic transition itself.
At the initial stage after democracy Belarus will be established, the Commission’s approved 3.5 billion plan will be a good start. However, once the development finance architecture will be in place, there will be a need to convene a donor conference for democratic Belarus, which could launch an active phase of investment support to the modernisation of Belarus. The actual needs for modernisation of Belarus could stand at around 10 to 15 billion euros for the next 5 years, to which we should also add the costs of external debt.
The implementation of the EU plan will require preparatory work on both sides, the EU and democratic forces of Belarus, and that needs to be started now. The EU has to develop a consistent architecture and a mechanism to pursue the political dialogue with Belarusian democrats and seek an agreement on a joint vision both of investment support plan and of future relationship in between the democratic Belarus and the EU. This mechanism can work as an interim international agreement between the EU and the leaders who are fighting for democratic changes in Belarus.
Building EU future relations with Democratic Belarus: agreeing joint policy guidelines within the Eastern Partnership initiative now and after the democratic changes
The EU needs to upgrade its policy for democratic change in Belarus and to engage more actively with democratic forces of Belarus by giving them a seat at the Eastern Partnership Summit. The EU can do even more and establish accredited democratic Belarus representation in the EU and its Member States. The upgrading of EU relations is a necessary step for the EU to endorse the democratic changes in Belarus. The EU needs to establish as soon as possible a clear perspective regarding its future relations with the democratic Belarus. This should be a much closer cooperation with the EU, which could take a form of a new generation Association Agreements (Europe Agreements) between the EU and democratic Belarus.
The EU can further contribute to the mobilisation of democracy in Belarus by organising the annual EU summits with democratic forces of Belarus followed by the adoption the joint policy guidelines. For example, at the first summit, the EU together with delegation representing the democratic forces of Belarus could agree on the following policy guidelines: (1) future of EU relations with democratic Belarus after the fall of the regime, (2) interim architecture of the EU’s political dialogue with the representatives of democratic Belarus, (3) implementation architecture for the comprehensive EU multi-billion plan, interim and after the fall of the regime, (4) establishment of the EU lead group to work on international justice for the people of Belarus (the trial process of Mr Lukashenko).