Mladenov about Lukashenko: The President seemed sincere
Belarusian political analyst Dzianis Melyantsou posted on his blog the letter of the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov on the results of his negotiations with Alexander Lukashenko, addressed to Catherine Ashton the head of the EU foreign policy.
As Dzianis Melyantsou informed Radio Liberty this letter was distributed among the members of the expert working group on Belarus, who recently met in Washington.
We asked the press service of Catherine Ashton to comment on the content of the publication of Mr. Melyantsou's blog. Maya Kotiyanchich, the press secretary of Ashton, answered the following: "The High Representative for European Foreign Policy Ashton received the letter from the Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mladenov, which applies to Belarus. The foreign ministers of the European Union discussed the situation in Belarus at the informal meeting in early September. They drew attention to recent events, meanwhile they stated, that the EU wants to see the liberation and rehabilitation of all political prisoners".
Thus, the representative of Mrs. Ashton has not confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the letter, posted on the website of Dzianis Melyantsou.
The letter text is below:
28 Aug 2011
Re: Developments in Belarus
I am writing to you regarding certain developments in Belarus that, to my mind, could create an opening for the EU to facilitate the process of democratisation.
Over the last few weeks we had been picking up some signals from Belarus with interest in improving the country’s relationship with the EU. Our analysis shows that such an interest may have been driven by the financial restraints that the government is facing, as well as the effect of the sanctions, and the external environment in general.
In my initial contacts with people close to President LUKASHENKA I stated that there can be no discussions unless there is visible improvement in the human rights situation in the country, which is the core of our common position in the EU. This includes a full political amnesty for all prosecuted, charged and convicted around the election riots in December 2010.
Much to my surprise the reaction from Minsk was positive.
This is the reason why on Friday, August 26th I flew to Belarus and had a two-and-a-half hour meeting with the President in which he agreed to the following:
By the end of the coming week at least four prisoners will be released and charges against two others will be dropped with no further consequences;
By the end of September/beginning of October all remaining political activists will be released;
Early next week the President should address a national meeting of teachers at which he will call for a national roundtable between government, civil society and opposition. The roundtable should provide for a genuine dialogue aimed at agreeing on the political future and democratisation of Belarus. It should be based on the principles of preserving the territorial integrity and independence of Belarus, and developing a multiparty democracy.
When announcing this initiative, the President will call on the European Union to send ‘a group of wise persons’ to monitor and perhaps facilitate this dialogue.
I believe that there initiatives, if implemented over the course of the next few days, would create an opening for the EU to engage constructively in support of democratisation in Belarus. The conditions could be created for us to work with the opposition and the government to develop the basis of a real multiparty democracy. All Member-States who have gone through the transition to democracy have much to offer in terms of experience and knowledge. It would be in the best interest of Europe and the people of Belarus if we agree to identify a group of wise and experienced persons who could monitor, steer and facilitate such a dialogue in Belarus. It would be a sign of our strengthened European commitment to our Eastern neighborhood.
My assessment of the meeting was rather positive. The President seemed sincere in his interest in closing the chapter of the past in a manner that allows for the country to move on. He spoke of the need for a new constitutional arrangement that would usher in multiparty democracy and the dangers of accumulating ‘too much power’ as he has done. He clearly believes that preserving the independence of Belarus is his most important legacy. Although, when challenged, he agreed that independence is best guaranteed by a strong relationship with the EU and functioning democratic institutions.
I hope that next week we can welcome these developments, if they unfold as promised and at our next meetings have a more in-depth discussions.
Nickolay E. MLADENOV