Belarus’ relations with the West: sanctions, the war of words and money for civil society
By Dzianis Melyantsou
On December 7, during a meeting of the EU Foreign Ministers Council, participants decided to introduce a third package of sanctions against Belarus, which should include companies and businessmen who, according to the EU, contribute to repression in Belarus. The very list of names and businesses is in the making and yet has not been disclosed.
On December 11, Switzerland joined the second package of sanctions, which listed 15 Belarusian senior officials, including Lukashenka.
Last week, the European Commission decided to allocate EUR 24 million for Belarus’ civil society, educational scholarships, SMEs, and healthcare to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
On December 9, heads of EU diplomatic missions represented in Belarus, Great Britain, Switzerland and the United States met with Foreign Minister Makei. This meeting, which the Western ambassadors had requested a while ago, aimed to assess where the parties stand in the ongoing crisis, however eventually resulted in a war of words, becoming yet another element in the diplomatic war between Belarus and the West.
As reported by the EU Delegation to Belarus, western diplomats enquired whether the Belarusian leadership planned to comply with the Belarusian Constitution and international commitments regarding fundamental rights and freedoms, and the rule of law. At the meeting, the parties also discussed the possibility of Polish and Lithuanian ambassadors and other embassy staff to return to Belarus before the year-end.
In his commentary, Minister Makei pointed to the mentoring tone of the EU Delegation and called the demands of his counterparts “a piece of propaganda”, which repeated the bullet points of the programme of "emigrated radical opponents of the current government."
According to Makei, participants in the meeting also raised the issue of external mediation in resolving the situation in Belarus. However, he said that at this stage, Minsk did not see any added value from such mediation, since “these international instruments and mechanisms cannot be trusted due to their bias.”