No rose-coloured glasses, but hope for the best: EU not expecting much of Lukashenka

The EU doubts that any steps to improve the election legislation will be taken in Minsk; it is unlikely that Alyaksandr Lukashenka will properly use time allowed to amend the constitution, Bogdan Zdrojewski, Chairman of the EP delegation for relations with Belarus, believes.

Over the last Europe has had little time for belarus as it has been solving its own problems, Zdrojewski told news agency BelaPAN. Although no one is expecting miracles to happen, EU officials remain positive about the prospects of cooperation and believe that the progress might be faster.

“There is no joint EU stance on Belarus. There is no consensus. And if there is no consensus among 28 members of the European Union, they do not actually do anything,” Belarusian political analyst Andrey Yahorau believes.

Lukashenka might have authorised introducing visa-free regime with a number of countries in 2017, but there has not been even a decrease in the cost of Schengen visas for Belarusians. According to Zdrojewski, it is the Belarusian authorities that are slowing down the process, since they failed to meet the best part of necessary requirements.

“We are observing sort of ‘rhetorical’ progress, but there are no real changes. This is the main description of the situation and, perhaps, there will be no systemic changes in the future,” Yahorau said.

In general, there are two approaches to Belarus in the European Parliament, Bogdan Zdrojewski stressed. Some believe that it will be enough if Lukashenka does not court trouble. Others want the Belarusian leader to move on to a broader dialogue with the EU, i.e to allow the simplified registration of political parties and movements, carry out partial privatisation, bring young blood to the government, etc. The problem is not only Lukashenka’s reluctance to change something, but Russia’s provocations as well.

“These were some attempts to show that Belarus was under the EP pressure, to prove that the European Parliament was supposedly setting some tough conditions for the continuation of the dialogue. Such things are aimed at breaking the contact established. But the breakage may result in Belarus’ remaining one-on-one with Russia,” the MEP said.

Severing the relations with the eastern neighbour is impossible not only due to Belarus’ aconomic dependence on Russia.

“If we have a row with Russia, we will face the fate of Donbas,” Belarusian methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich warns.

In March’s interview with Euronews, Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey boasted of the draft national action plan on human rights. However, in real life, the situation is different: over the years, the authorities have been resorting to arrests, beating and persecution of Belarusians, including of Belsat TV journalists. However, all these difficulties and hindrances only make our channel stronger, Zdrojewski believes.

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