European Expert Giselle Bosse on the Controversy Over the Use and Effectiveness of EU Sanctions Towards Belarus is considerable controversy over the use and effectiveness of sanctions in international relations. The EU itself has struggled to define a coherent policy towards Belarus over the past decade - moving from isolation to critical engagement, which was at first 'more engagement than critical' and recently more 'critical than engagement'.

Changing constellations of actors and attitudes within the EU on the use and effectiveness of sanctions played a significant role in the EU's policy towards Belarus in the past. The current debate on the effectiveness of EU sanctions towards Belarus is important because it 'tests' the coherence of EU policy: Will it stay committed to the current policy of 'more critical than engagement' or change policy once again?

If the EU stays committed to sanctions, the current debate serves as a strong reminder that it has to make sure that it articulates clearer (and perhaps more strategic) criteria for black-listing officials, which in turn presupposes better insights into how the Belarusian government works (for example, why did the EU fail to check whether the renewed black-list of Belarusian officials contained names of individuals who had in fact died in the meantime?).

If the EU changes its policy at this point in time towards more engagement, however, it would most likely be criticised for being inconsistent (again), which it is determined to avoid. That said, it should not be forgotten that the EU does in fact continue to engage with Belarus at the multilateral level through technical cooperation, and also in cross-border cooperation projects.

There is another issue here as well, perhaps much more important: the current controversy over EU sanctions towards Belarus is causing a serious division in the political opposition to Lukashenko, in the year of the parliamentary election. This development may affect the political outcome of the parliamentary election in Belarus much more than EU sanctions.

Giselle Bosse is Assistant Professor at the Political Science Department at Maastricht University and Consultant at the European Parliament. Her research focuses on EU relations with Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and authoritarian regimes in the region, with a particular focus on Belarus. She has published her work inter alia in the Journal of Common Market Studies (forthcoming in 2012), Geopolitics (2011), Europe-Asia Studies (2010) and Cooperation and Conflict (with E. Korosteleva, 2009), and has recently received a research grant from the Netherlands Institute of Governance (NIG) for a project on 'Democratic reform in Eastern Europe' (2010-2012). Dr Bosse frequently presents her work at leading think tanks in Europe, including the European Policy Centre in Brussels, the Institut für Europäische Politik, Berlin and the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki, and has participated in contract research for the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament. The book on 'Values versus Security? A new challenge for the EU and its neighbours' edited by Giselle Bosse with Gergana Noutcheva and Karolina Pomorska, will be published by Manchester University Press in spring/summer 2012.