Updated at 11:59,21-05-2018

What Eastern Partnership summit in Riga holds for Belarus


Five key things to know about the Eastern Partnership summit in Riga this week. Who will eventually represent Belarus?

What is the Eastern Partnership Summit

It is a big meeting of the leaders of the Eastern Partnership member countries with high-rank European officials. The first such summit was held on 7 May 2009 in Prague - it adopted a joint declaration on the EaP program and formally approved it. It actually means that the Eastern Partnership was launched in Prague. Then there were the summits in Warsaw, Brussels and Vilnius. At the same time Belarus, unlike other participants, has never been represented by the head of the country - instead of Lukashenka the country was represented by the MFA head.

What's going on there

All kinds of things do. For example, at the Brussels summit in 2012, participants discussed Belarus. More precisely, they discussed the human rights situation in our country. It was acknowledged that there is room for improvement. At the last summit in Vilnius they were supposed to sign the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. It did not really work well with Ukraine, as everyone knows, that's why Maidan, Crimea, and the war in Donbass followed.

What can happen at the summit in Riga

Basically, nothing serious can happen at the Summit. "There is not much to be expected. Apart from, maybe, the signing of certain documents on the visa regime facilitation. And it could happen some time after the summit," warns political analyst Andrei Yahorau. Moreover, it is not even about visa price reduction for Belarusians, but rather about the streamliningn of procedures for diplomats and other VIPs. Thus, ordinary citizens wll not notice anything except the catchy media headlines.

Who will represent Belarus

Here is still a little mystery. The EaP Summit is the place for geopolitical PR. Since the beginning of the spring, there have circulated rumors on the sidelines of the Western Ministries about Lukashenka getting an invitation. The rumor had it that the West could even turn a blind eye to the fact that Lukashenka is stil on the EU black list. The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has not disclosed the name of its representative saying it is too early for that: "Currently, this information cannot be disclosed. The name of the Belarus representative at the Riga summit will be made public as soon as there is a need for it."

The expert Yury Shautsou believes that the invitation and the visit of Lukashenka to Riga could be another signal to the West - look, we are in fact neutral and independent. However, Shautsou said that the Eastern Partnership summit has not really taken serious decisions before, so "there is little practical significance in the presidential visit to Riga." Andrei Yahorau believes that the likelihood of this visit equals zero: "Lukashenka is on the black list. To get him off it, you need a solution of all the EU countries. This has not been the case."

Why the Eastern Partnership summits make Russia so angry?

the reason could be that Russia was not invited there, and the participating countries like Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus has long been perceived by the Kremlin as its sphere of influence. In addition, one of the ideologists of the EaP was Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and he is the sworn enemy of Kremlin in the geopolitical field of Europe. In reality we see that the Kremlin's fears are not entirely baseless - Moscow has lost Ukraine as an ally if not for ever, then for a very long time.