In H2 2019, Alyaksandr Lukashenka will come to Vienna, but not to Warsaw: the Belarusian leader has accepted the invitation of the Austrian Chancellor. Belsat TV sources have confirmed that his visit to Austria is in the making.
“The relations between the two countries have their roots in the Soviet period when Austrian companies were building large enterprises in Belarus,” Lukashenka said during the meeting with Sebastian Kurz.
Lukashenka hopes that Kurz will help Belarus get more Austrian investments and improve relations with other EU countries so that it could become less dependent on Russia.
“The European Union is concerned about the Belarus-Russia relations at this stage, since there are rumours that there might be a change in power in Belarus and the two countries might unite,” Lithuanian political analyst Vadim Volovoy believes.
According to a number of experts, Moscow will agree to Lukashenka’s visit to Vienna.
“Russia holds Austria as its own lobbyist in Europe,” Valeryia Kastsyuhova, an editor at the expert community Our Opinion, said.
But Lukashenka is highly unlikely to accept the invitation of his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda to visit Warsaw on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War as Vladimir Putin was not invited to the event. In recent years, media and politicians stopped naming Lukashenka ‘Europe’s last dictator’, he is again invited to the EU to build up a dialogue, but Brussels has certain limits in improving relations with the dictatorship, experts say.
Unfortunately, Belarus has not become more free, which is seen from the recent detentions on March 25, as well as from arrests and trials of activists, for example, over sharing a post on the Internet.
“The human rights issue will not disappear from the agenda in Belarus-EU talks, and Alyaksandr Lukashenka will have to bear it in mind and, perhaps, take some steps to create an image of a more liberal politician,” Volovoy hopes.
However, the Belarusians gained the experience of the so-called ‘liberalization’ in the run-up to the 2010 presidential election, which resulted in sentencing several presidential candidates to prison terms.
“We are ready for the cooperation [with the EU], but it is always necessary to take our national interests into account,” Lukashenka told the Austrian PM.
At the same time, the Belarusian leader is infamous for using the words ‘national interests’ and ‘state sovereignty of Belarus’ when talking about the inviolability of his authority. Now, playing on the needs and fears of the European Union, he continues to consolidate his power, but draws Belarus into further economic and political integration with Russia.
Yaraslau Stseshyk/MS, belsat.eu, phot. BelTA