Independent political analysts predict a deterioration in the relationship between Belarus and the European Union in 2010.
"The prospects are not looking good in this regard, as a presidential election is approaching,"Valery Karbalevich, of the Stratehiya think tank, said in an interview with BelaPAN. "The forthcoming presidential election will create a tense political atmosphere in the country and prompt the regime to toughen its policy regarding opponents."
"The tightened screws on the political opposition and civil society will certainly be met with discontent from the West, which will lead to a deterioration in the Belarus-EU relationship," Mr. Karbalevich said. "The relationship will go back to what it is at present until after the election is over."
Another independent political analyst, Yury Chavusaw, predicts that Belarus and the EU may step up their dialogue in the energy sphere, as their interests in the sphere coincide to a considerable extent. Major gas and oil delivery routes to Europe bypassing Belarus, the BTS-2 oil pipeline and the Nord Stream and South Stream gas pipelines, are to be put into operation in two years and this will drastically change the geopolitical situation of Belarus, Mr. Chavusaw told BelaPAN.
"We can see that the government has realized the need to be geared up," he said. "Privatization processes are going on in the petrochemical sector. Talks are being held about the construction of what was called the Baltic-Black Sea Collector in the 1990s, and the possibility of connecting Belarus to Ukraine’s Odessa-Brody oil pipeline is being discussed. In short, Belarus is looking for ways of diversifying energy sources, which cannot be done without the political and economic support of the EU."
As for the political sphere, the dialogue between Minsk and the EU will largely depend on how the EU reacts to human rights violations in Belarus, Mr. Chavusaw said. "It is most likely that the Belarusian authorities will pursue the same policy but will try to avoid flagrant and obvious violations, and EU institutions will refrain from making strongly worded statements in order not to break up this dialogue," he noted.