‘Ways Ahead: The Eastern Partnership as a Window of Opportunity for Belarus’

Conference ‘Belarus’s Path in Europe’ concluded with the final panel ‘The Way ahead: The Eastern Partnership as a framework for Belarus-EU relations’.Jean-Eric Holzapfel, Charge d’affaires of the European Union to Belarus, stressed that Eastern partnership is neither anti-Russian nor is it intending to ‘Europeanize’ Belarus. He reminded that since 2008 Belarus has a window of opportunity for collaboration with the EU in five key areas.

According to Alexander Strelkov from the Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow), Russian politicians and experts perceive the Eastern Partnership as an initiative threatening Russia’s influence in the post-soviet region. Moreover, according to Mr. Strelkov, Russia does not possess a clear stance towards the activation of the external EU politics.Roland Freudenstein from the Centre for European Studies (Brussels) addressed the issue of Belarusian representation at the EaP Parliamentary Assembly (Euronest) and stated that he does not see any alternative to the ‘5 MPs + 5 reps. of opposition’ proposition of the EU.

Addressing the same problem, Sergei Kizima, the head of the Department of International Relations of the Academy of Public Administration under the aegis of the President of the Republic of Belarus argued that there is simple solution. Thus he said: ‘if the EU is upset with those Belarusian MP’s who won the elections running against the oppositional candidates, then maybe it is better to invite those 10 MPs who did not have to compete against the opposition’.

Eugeniusz Smolar, from the Center for International Relations (Warsaw) noticed that EU prioritizes the Eastern Partnership program given its amazing pace.

Olga Stuzhinskaya, the Director of the Office for Democratic Belarus (Brussels) argued that although it is too early to evaluate the overall impact of the Eastern Partnership, it is already clear that the program definitely improved the status of Belarus in the international relations.

Uladzislau Vialichka from the International Consortium EuraBelarus, highlighted the fact that Eastern Partnership intensified the work of Belarusian NGO’s and motivated them for further actions.