Review 2018: inching ahead
The Belarusian authorities further pursued the policy of gradual normalization with the West, based on Western states’ interest in the region and Belarus’ new peacekeeping role in resolving the conflict in Ukraine. However, there were no major breakthroughs in this direction.
Belarus focused her efforts on transforming the Belarus-EU agenda and bilateral relations with some EU member states towards greater pragmatism and de-politicization, which ultimately led to an increase in joint projects in spheres of common interest. Several high-level visits to Minsk by current and former U.S. officials marked significant progress in improving relations with the United States.
The Belarusian authorities actively promoted Belarus’ new image of a peacemaker state which advocated for stability in Eastern Europe. Several large international conferences (including the Minsk Dialogue Forum, the OSCE Conference on Cybersecurity, and the Core Group Meeting of the Munich Security Conference) confirmed the strengthening of such Minsk’s new role. Belarus extended the visa-free stay for foreigners to 30 days, however, this fact did not have a major impact on visa facilitation talks with the European Union. That said, Belarus and the EU as yet did not arrive at agreements on visa facilitation and partnership priorities.
Major Threats in 2019
- further delay with the signing of agreements with the EU on visa facilitation, partnership priorities and trade is likely
- Russia is likely to step up the pressure and the West is likely to enhance demands in connection with the upcoming elections
- the likely growth in the confrontation between Russia and the West would further narrow the room for manoeuvre for Minsk
Forecast for 2019
- the gradual normalization with the West is likely to continue without major breakthroughs
-areas of cooperation with the European Union and the United States are likely to expand and the funding of projects unrelated to the promotion of democracy is likely to increase
- a surge of negative rhetoric towards the West is likely, due to the logic of the electoral process in Belarus