EU and Belarus: Six Months After

Briefing of the Belarusian experts on current situation and development outlook for Belarus for PSC and COEST Representatives and other interested parties

The political progress in Belarus has not been significant and has been impaired by the new repressive acts of the government. Nonetheless, ending the dialogue with the Belarusian authorities would be the worst possible scenario for the future of the country and for EU-Belarus relations. This was the dominant theme of the briefing of the Belarusian experts on the current situation in Belarus for representatives of the Political and Security Committee (PSC) of the EU Council, the Working Party on Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) and other interested parties. The event took place on 2 March. It was hosted by the Permanent Representation of the Slovak Republic to the European Union and organised by the Brussels-based Office for Democratic Belarus and the Pontis Foundation (Bratislava).

Participants of the discussion noted that the recent liberalising measures taken by the Belarusian authorities have been rather superficial and did not mark a serious commitment to the democratic norms and principles. The guiding motive for liberalisation is survival needs of the Belarusian government and its search for Western aid and investment. Nevertheless, recent development in EU-Belarus relations help promote some modest political opening in the country and extend the space for operation for the independent civil society and press.

Belarusian experts therefore recommend the EU Council to extend the temporary lifting of the visa ban for some Belarusian officials for another six months. During this period, according to the analysts, the EU could present to the Belarusian side realistic and clearly spelled out conditions for further engagement. The government of Belarus, in turn, would have time to weight its options and assess the opportunity costs of withdrawal from the dialogue with the European Union in the eye of grave consequences of the economic and financial crisis.