Olga Stuzhinskaya on the Prospective of the EU-Belarus Relations

http://profile.ak.fbcdn.net/hprofile-ak-snc4/276125_618626266_1145577_n.jpgOlga Stuzhinskaya, the director of the Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels) spoke on the prospective of the EU-Belarus relations to Meabh McMahon, a journalist from the www.euoserver.com


When speaking on the current EU-Belarus relations, Ms Stuzhinskaya noted that one can observe the disappearance of the remaining ‘European islands’ in Belarus. The EU is not on the agenda of the Belarusian government; there are new agreements signed with Russia leading to more political and economic integration of the two countries.

Answering a reporter’s question about the direct impact the EU sanctions on Lukashenka and the ruling elites, Olga reminded that the European Union has never implemented either a fully-fledged policy of sanctions with harsh economic measures, or has the EU never launched real engagement with Belarus.

The EU policy towards Belarus has always been something between the two approaches.

President Lukashenka has never been a fan of the European Union, but the Belarusian population is, Olga said. However little the Belarusians know what the EU is about, what the European values are and what the living standards are, independent polls show that Belarusians stand for the Europeanisation of their country. To Ms Stuzhinskaya’s opinion, this should be crucial for the EU: to speak with and listen to the broader society and address their needs.

“If you don’t have any engagement with the country, if there are no strong links and no strong interest, you have very little influence,” ODB director said. The European space is shrinking in Belarus and there is less and less air for any pro-European initiatives to develop. All the assistance that the EU provides today to Belarus or wants to provide is quite large and has grown after December 19th. However, there is a huge problem with implementation of this assistance. Because the more upset the government is, the less space these pro-European initiatives have for their manoeuvre. “Continue expending visa ban list does not bring us anywhere,” she said. As it was mentioned during the discussion at Foreign Affairs Committee by one of the discussion participants: “We do it [the sanctions] to irritate Lukashenka”. Is this the result we want from the EU policy? To irritate Lukashenka and the government?  We have to really see how to expand the influence of the EU there, how to talk to people”, Olga explained.

Commenting on the economic situation in Belarus, Ms Stuzhinskaya noted that after a 2011-year crisis hit the country with salaries going down several times while prices going up, Belarusian were shocked. At the same time, in the absence of any alternative to the government policy that could help to bring reforms and change, Belarusians started to find their own ways to cope with the situation. Many of them, for instance, left for work abroad. In addition, new agreements with Russia provide the government with enough money to keep the economy on the level it is today at least for another year and a half.

Commenting on the latest developments in Russia, Ms Stuzhinskaya agreed that democratisation of the Belarus's biggest neighbour could have its impact on the situation in Belarus.

For more details, please see the video.

ODB, Video: EU Observer