The European Union sent an official invitation to the EaP summit scheduled for 24 November in Brussels. Now it is up to Minsk to decide who will go to the Belgian capital. If Alyaksandr Lukashenka accepts the invitation, it will be his highest-priority visit to the EU since 1996.
“I think that he should go, because it is the continuation and further development of the relations that Brussels is attempting to build with Belarus,” said the 2006 presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich.
“Taking into account geopolitical and economic benefits, there is no sense in Lukashenka’s participating in the EaP summit, not least because it may be an irritating factor for Russians,” said political analyst Pavel Usau.
But after the 2014 annexation of Crimea, Minsk is trying to pursue a more balanced foreign policy. It is worth pointing out that previously Belarus often acted without look out for the Kremlin. For example, Lukashenka failed to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia; later he was a guest at the inauguration of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
“Lukashenka’s participation in the summit will deal a heavy blow to the opposition,” Pavel Usau believes. Earlier, it was the opposition who represented Belarus in the European agencies; after Lukashenka’s visit there will be no longer such a need, the expert added.
“It does not deepen any changes in Belarus, does not create conditions for systemic changes, even for economic changes, it does not improve the lives of ordinary citizens, it will only improve the image of Lukashenka,” he said.
“A dialogue needs to be held so that Belarus could get integrated itself into certain European processes – Economic, political, social, cultural. It is not for Lukashenka, but for Belarus. The talks are already in progress, they are hard, but they are in progress,” said Alyaksandr Milinkevich.
Launching a liberalization campaign in the country was a condition for Belarus’ getting relief from EU sanctions. At Tuesday’s PACE meeting in Strasbourg Ales Byalyatski, Director of the HRC Viasna and a former political prisomer, stated that there was no improvement in the human rights situation in Belarus. Nevertheless, the sanctions were suspended, and Europe’s ‘last dictator’ has been given the green light to go to Brussels.
“It proves that Europe does not have a well-thought-out approach to authoritarian regimes,” said Pavel Usau.
Alyaksandr Milinkevich thinks differently:
“The West may be under the delusion that Lukashenka will become pro-European and pro-democracy, I think it is unreal. But I have no doubt that developing such cooperation will do good to Belarus and its independence.”