Updated at 17:11,20-07-2018

Sweden does not sell democratic values


Last week, leaders of Belarusian opposition and civil society visited Sweden at the invitation of Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. Chairman of the National Committee of the United Democratic Forces, the chairman of the United Civil Party Anatoly Lebedko commented on the results of the visit.

- Who organized your visit to Sweden?

- Our invitation to Stockholm was a personal initiative of Carl Bildt. It is proof that the democratic opposition and civil society of Belarus remain a strategic partner for the European Union.

- It should be noted that Bildt met with the Belarusian opposition, and at the same time Lithuanian President met with Alexander Lukashenko.

- I want to remind that few days before Lukashenko’s visit to Vilnius, Alexander Kozulin, Pavel Severinets and me met with the Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs and chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament. The initiative of meeting also came from the Lithuanian side. I think that we influenced the agenda of meetings between the Belarusian ruler and the Lithuanian politicians.

- What was the position of Belarusian delegation?

- We have common position. Our main message was "loans and investments in exchange for free elections and moratorium on political repressions".

- What was the reaction to your message from the Swedish politicians?

- Carl Bildt said that "making a decision on granting loans to Belarus, the European Union would take into account political criteria too". It is very important statement. We also met with the Minister for International Development Cooperation of Sweden Gunilla Karlsson, Minister for European Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom and with members of the Parliament.

- Did you make concrete proposals and initiatives during these meetings?

- We proposed to institute the post of Special Representative of the European Union on Belarus, to hold international conference on Belarus and to form joint expert groups under Eastern Partnership program.

- Do you believe that such conference will solve Belarusian problems?

- This initiative has two goals: to bring Spain, next EU President, into this process and to start real negotiations between the government and the opposition.

Let’s look forward. In a few months the EU presidency will go to Spain. Obviously, official Madrid is not very interested in Belarusian issue. In this situation international conference as a joint Swedish-Polish initiative is a good opportunity to involve Spain in this process. This week Minister Cecilia Malmstrom will meet with her Spanish colleague and discuss our proposal. Practical implementation of this initiative may give an impulse to the beginning of real negotiations.

- You also proposed to institute the post of Special Representative of the European Union on Belarus.

- Supporters of changes in Belarus objectively interested in this. We need a person in Brussels who will permanently work on the Belarusian issue and will be responsible for the result.

- Sweden criticized crackdown of peaceful action in memory of Viktor Gonchar and Anatoly Krasovsky. Was there any discussion on this issue?

- The reaction of the Swedish side and personally Carl Bildt was quick and adequate. Now in Europe there are two views on building relations with the official Minsk. One is based on democratic values, the other on economic pragmatism. Sweden is the country that does not sell democratic values.