Updated at 17:11,13-02-2018

Minsk fears interference of Warsaw with Belarus-EU normalization

Belarus in focus

Official Minsk anticipates that positive trends in Belarusian-Polish relations may curtail. However, the Belarusian authorities hope that Warsaw will not block the normalization of Belarusian-European relations. Otherwise, Minsk would launch a usual anti-Polish campaign in the media and would put pressure on unregistered Polish minority organisations in Belarus.

Last week, President Lukashenka congratulated Andrzej Duda on his election as President of Poland. Duda’s election as Polish President has struck a warning note for the Belarusian authorities. Even thought the Belarusian authorities hope that Poland would continue to support the EU policy of normalizing relations with Belarus, they are nevertheless ready for some cooling in Belarusian-Polish relations.

In addition, Belarus believes that Poland will be somewhat restrained by the general European trend toward normalization of Belarusian-European relations. Ideally, Belarus would like to formulate a relatively neutral bilateral agenda with Poland, which would focus on cross-border and pragmatic economic cooperation.

The newly elected Polish president is known for his tough rhetoric vis-à-vis Russia, Belarus therefore hopes that he will take into account its "balanced" position on Russian-Ukrainian relations. The authorities also emphasize the potential threat to the independence of Belarus, which, they believe, could become an important lever to influence new Polish leadership. Belarus would do her best to position itself as a deterrent to the Kremlin’s aggressive policy.

The Belarusian opposition, in general, has positively assessed Duda’s election. They hope that Warsaw will strengthen its principled position vis-à-vis the Belarusian authorities and will increase support for civil society. For instance, some representatives of the academic community are looking forward to Warsaw’s assistance in founding the Belarusian National University.

In addition, it is quite likely that the Belarusian authorities may strengthen their ‘anti-Polish rhetoric’ and resume repressions against members of the unregistered Union of Poles – which they conventionally do ahead of presidential elections in Belarus.

All in all, the Belarusian authorities reckon that new Polish President Andrzej Duda would not seriously exacerbate relations between Minsk and Warsaw, and would allow some criticism of the situation inside Belarus.