For failure of complying with democratic standards, since 1997 Belarus has been (self-) isolated from European integration dynamics. Save for a short-lived 'thaw' with the West in 2008-2010, when Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s regime was seeking to compensate for its degraded relations with Moscow, Belarus has been the target of EU sanctions. Yet the country remains apparently impermeable to democratisation and Europeanisation alike.
A 'reluctant partner' in the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood, Belarus is also the cornerstone of Russia’s Eurasian Union project. In late 2011 Russia’s renewed subsidising of Belarus virtually saved the country from economic collapse. In energising its own integration offer along the Eurasian vector, Moscow offers official Minsk a cooperation prospect void of democratic conditionality which is more attractive than the EU’s could ever be.
Do Lukashenka’s geopolitical preferences reflect the aspiration of the Belarusian people however? Building on the results of independent sociological surveys, this study tries to assess the worldviews, social needs and dividing lines among Belarusian society ahead of the 2012 legislative elections. It critically reviews the EU’s 'dual track' policy and instruments and calls for adopting a new strategy to draw the country closer to the EU while circumventing its authoritarian leadership. Exploring the potential of 'third track' diplomacy – towards a real, pragmatic partnership with Belarus as a country – this study advocates a more inclusive approach of neighbourhood relations, allowing for mutually beneficial cooperation for the sake of modernising and hopefully democratising Belarus.
The full text of the study is available in PDF format
Dr Anaïs Marin, Researcher, The EU’s Eastern neighbourhood and Russia research programme, Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Helsinki
Directorate-General for External Policies of the Union
WIB 06 M 075
rue Wiertz 60
Editorial Assistant: Elina Stergatou