Closer to Europe – a mere facade or a real strategy?

Over the last year and a half, there have also been some changes in the official discourse –words such as liberalization, human rights and democratic development have come to be widely used by Belarusian state officials. They have also been putting an emphasis on the necessity of a pragmatic readjustment of the relations with the EU. For example, in June 2009, the topic of the ‘Common Information Day’ – a monthly event, one of the main activities run by ideological departments and directed at state institutions and enterprises - was entitled “The Belarus-Europe Dialog: current issues”. Its main message can be expressed with a quotation : “The EU possesses the most advanced technologies, mighty investment possibilities and huge intellectual potential. This is exactly what is needed to help the economic modernization of Belarus”. The authorities, have ventured an attempt to show the EU their willingness to start an internal dialogue. This endeavour included initiating a number of consultative councils and inviting some civil society representatives to join them.
This ‘relance’ of European integration issues in Belarus has brought about some changes in the public mood. Although Belarus is still a deeply divided country, recent polls show however a rise in supporters of European integration. For the first time over the past several years, the number of those preferring the European option has slightly surpassed the number of those, who would like to see Belarus in closer union with Russia. Analysts predict a further rise in this tendency, partly thanks to a change in the official rhetoric. Most of human rights defenders also admit lower intensity of political harassment in comparison with the years 2006-2008.

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Alaksandr Lahviniec  is an MA in international relations at the Belarusian State University and has completed postgraduate studies in France. He was often a candidate in parliamentary and local elections and is currently holding the post of an advisor to Alaksandr Milinkevich, chairman of the Belarusian movement "For Freedom". He is also author of numerous publications on European integration.
Heinrich Böll Stiftung