Updated at 17:11,20-07-2018

Belarusian authorities lack incentives for rapprochement with EU

By Andrey Fyodaraw, BelaPAN

The European Parliament on September 12 approved a report by Justas Paleckis on the situation in Belarus containing recommendations on the European Union's policy regarding Minsk. The report is unlikely to prompt Minsk to change its policies just like previous resolutions by the EU.

No big difference

Unlike 37 previous resolutions on human rights violations in Belarus, the report is the first attempt in the last 19 years to look at a future strategy with regard to Belarus and understand what can be done to improve the situation, Paleckis said, presenting his paper.

It is true, the report offers a more detailed analysis of Belarus than the above-mentioned resolutions. But an analysis is needed mainly for producing recommendations. In this light, it is not quite clear what Paleckis meant because his recommendations do not radically differ from recent resolutions.

All papers of the kind include a critical part and positive recommendations. Specific incidents may differ but there are permanent themes such as the Belarusian government's failure to respect international standards for free and fair elections.

The report was tailored based on the same principle. Apart from non-essential differences, it contains the same accusations and proposals as the European Parliament's October 2012 resolution focusing on Belarus' parliamentary elections.

Major change unlikely

Stefan Fule, the European Union's commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy, said he hoped that the recommendations would help the EU to deal with Belarus.

That appeared to be his wishful thinking. The recommendations could be of great help only if the Belarusian authorities listened to them, but Minsk does not seem to be willing to do so.

Fule noted a number of steps toward rapprochement with the EU taken after the appointment of Uladzimir Makey as Belarus' foreign minister in August 2012. For instance, Belarusian authorities allowed the Swedish embassy in Minsk to resume its operation, Fule said.

The move, however, could hardly help improve ties as long as political opponents continue to languish in jails, dissidents are persecuted and the government continues to execute those sentenced to death.

Democracy can come only if people want it

External efforts alone cannot bring democracy to Belarus without massive popular support inside the country.

Belarusian opposition politicians' differences on the matter are the main reason for the camp's fragmentation. The opposition is likely to ignore the European Parliament's call for unification.

Some opposition leaders urge the EU to engage with the Belarusian government despite obstacles, while others call for tougher sanctions.

Russian human rights defenders, including Olga Zakharova and Yury Djibladze, have unexpectedly joined the chorus of those attacking "lobbyists of the regime" [supporters of a dialogue between Minsk and Brussels], rejecting the argument that Belarus would move closer to Russia if the West increases pressure on the Belarusian ruler.

Their argument does not hold water, because Minsk would be less likely to quarrel with Moscow if its tensions with the West increase.

The September 11 visit of Rosneft President Igor Sechin, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, followed by Alyaksandr Lukashenka's meetings with Gazprom boss Aleksei Miller and German Gref, head of Sberbank, suggest that the Belarusian ruler remains in Moscow's good graces.

Since relations with Russia remain relatively good, he is unlikely to seek rapprochement with the EU. In this context, the Paleckis report is unlikely to have any effect on Minsk in the foreseeable future.