Updated at 15:34,14-12-2017

Suspension of entry ban against Makey shows that Belarus and EU want to mend fences, political analyst says

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The EU’s decision to suspend its entry ban against Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey was a predictable decision proving that Minsk and Brussels try to find common ground to repair their relationship, prominent Belarusian political analyst Valery Karbalevich told BelaPAN.

The "minimal" steps that the EU and Belarus and taking toward each other show the willingness of politicians on both sides of the fence to break the stalemate, Mr. Karbalevich said.

The steps taken by Belarus include the reopening of the Swedish embassy in Minsk, the closure of a criminal case against journalist Andrzej Poczobut, the re-registration of the Belarusian-language intellectual magazine Arche, the permission for Dunja Mijatovic, the OSCE representative on freedom of the media, to visit Belarus earlier this month, and the conduct of a seminar in Minsk to discuss the death penalty issue, Mr. Karbalevich said.

The Belarusian government may view the suspension of the entry ban against Mr. Makey as a "triumph of Belarusian diplomacy," but it should not be so optimistic, he said. "This would have been a triumph if Belarus had taken no steps at all to get relations with Brussels back to normal," he said. "In addition, the visa sanctions against Makey were suspended and not lifted."

The decision to suspend the visa ban against Mr. Makey was made by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.

Mr. Makey was not removed from a list of citizens of Belarus subject to asset freezes within the EU.

"In order to facilitate diplomatic contacts between the EU and Belarus, the Council today suspended the EU travel ban on Vladimir [Uladzimir] Makey, Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs," the Foreign Affairs Council said in a statement. "Mr Makey will remain on the list of persons subject to EU restrictive measures, but the visa ban will not be applied to him."

The Council stressed that its "decision does not reflect any change in the EU`s policy towards Belarus." "The EU maintains its policy of critical engagement with Belarus, including its policy of sanctions, with a view to furthering the respect for human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles in Belarus," the statement said.