The EU and Belarus: perpetual tango all over again?

The European Union has struggled to develop a coherent strategy towards Belarus, amid continued violations of democracy and human rights, and repression of the opposition, which has resulted in the EU placing sanctions on the country. Brussels has pursued a two-pronged approach: targeted measures against the Belarusian authorities on the one hand, while trying to intensify dialogue with, and support for, civil society and citizens on the other.

Unfortunately, this approach has yielded very few results. Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has failed to move away from his autocratic policies. In foreign policy terms, Lukashenka has tried to play the EU and Russia off one another. When relations with Russia became tricky, he turned to the EU. When the EU imposed sanctions, he tried to cosy up to the Russians. Parliamentary elections on 23 September, which are expected to shortly be officially declared as not having been free and fair, were boycotted by Belarus’s beleaguered opposition.

In this Policy Brief, Giselle Bosse, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Maastricht University, analyses current developments in Belarus’s relations with the EU, forecasts where they are heading and comes up with a number of recommendations for future engagement.

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