On June 22, Minsk hosted the meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and heads of national delegations of the member states of the Central European Initiative (CEI).
The guests were welcomed by the Belarusian president Alyaksandr Lukashenka who reiterated the main principles of his policy:
“The foreign policy of our country has a multi-vector and peaceful nature. We are committed to building friendly, mutually beneficial relations with all states. It is equally important for our country to develop cooperation with the East and the West without making an artificial choice between them. But there are some forces trying to bring back the bloc policy of the past.”
The fact that the meeting has taken place in Minsk is not surprising given that Belarus is currently holding the presidency of the Central European Initiative. At the same time, Belarusian democratic activists wonder why none of the European guests have condemned the recent crackdown on peaceful protest.
“In Belarus, there are dispersals of demonstrations, beatings and detentions of the dissent for participating in the protests, the ban on political parties and public organizations. The Belarusian authorities are welcoming the Europeans, and Lukashenka has the impudence to mansplain them,” says Pavel Sevyarynets, a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy.
The regime boasts of the alleged triumph of the multi-vector policy and shows its willingness to be a bridge between Asia and Europe – so that it would not have to choose a side. According to local observers, the success of Belarusian diplomacy has been overestimated.
Although the political regimes of the member states were not discussed by the CEI leaders, the meeting of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly may not be pleasing for Minsk. Among other things, it is expected to consider two resolutions.
“The resolution by a Lithuanian MP raises issues of political prisoners, the death penalty and violations during the Astravets NPP construction. The resolution of a Swedish MP refers to the violations in three countries – Russia, Azerbaijan, Belarus,”political analyst Uladzimir Matskevich stresses.
However, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly will meet for its 26th Annual Session not before July 2017 in Minsk. On June 22, the European guests did not even mention (at least in public) 14 defendants in the White Legion case, who have been in jail since March.