Round-table “The Recent Policy Swift in Belarus-EU Relations: Probation Period for Lukashenka” in Brussels

In the framework of the project “Support to independent media in Belarus“, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung together with the Office for a Democratic Belarus organized a discussion, entitled “The Recent Policy Swift in Belarus-EU Relations: Probation Period for Lukashenka”.

The workshop touched upon current issues affecting Belarus’ relations with the EU. What can the European Union offer and what can it expect from the Belarusian authorities? Is the situation of media freedom and freedom of assembly on the list of conditions for the Belarus-EU dialogue, and how the situation has changed since the recent partial suspension of sanctions against Belarus officials? These were the questions discussed by representatives of  Belarus' independent media outlets, members of the EU-based think tanks and non-governmental groups, as well as European diplomats.

Belarusian journalists noted some positive changes that took place in the country in the past months, including the return of newspapers Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya to printing houses and kiosks. However, they also spoke about numerous problems related to accreditation of journalists, economic conditions for existence of independent printed and Internet-based media, and many other difficulties they encounter on daily basis when exercising their professional duty. Media representatives also mentioned that in its dialogue with the Belarusian government the European Union should not only pay attention to the question of changes in the electoral and media regulations, but  should stress the importance of establishing the rule of law. Although Belarusian legislation does not seem to require many changes while implementation of legislative norms is lagging behind.

The Belarusian delegates welcomed the dialogue path in today’s relations between the EU and Belarus and the positive steps made by the government of Belarus. At the same time, they expressed their strong wish to see the process being maximally transparent and with the inclusion of civil society groups and the political opposition in the country. Journalists expressed their hope that the EU follows its current line towards Belarus and the pragmatism and that value-based approach continues going hand in hand.