EURONEST without Belarus
On 3 May the first meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the “Eastern Partnership” EURONEST was held in Brussels. The Belarusian delegation was not represented at the event or participated in the inaugural signing of the documents.
The Statute of the EURONEST allows for the participation in the Assembly of countries that meet democratic standards of the OSCE, i.e. Belarus lost its chance to participate in this international platform. The Statute of the EURONEST allows for the participation in the Assembly of countries that meet democratic standards of the OSCE, i.e. Belarus lost its chance to participate in this international platform.Earlier, Minsk was making efforts to form a “domestic lobby” in the EURONEST, however it is obvious that such lobby was unsuccessful vis-a-vis all 6 parliamentary delegations of the EURONEST or the European Parliament.
Therefore, the EURONEST started in the "one to six" format. Following Lukashenko’s diplomatic row (see issue of 25-30 April) against the Ukrainian President and the Chairman of the European Commission, it was obvious the EURONEST would be launched without Belarus. However, the Belarusian Parliament and the Foreign Ministry came up with particularly strong statements, expressing doubts about the legitimacy of the entire "Eastern Partnership" (the MFA) and vowing to ignore the decision of the inaugural forum (the Parliament).
Such a drastic reaction of the Foreign Ministry raises concerns about the continuation of support by the “inner lobby” of Belarus in the EURONEST. Nevertheless, the Belarusian MPs left in their statement an open door for the possibility of further cooperation with the EU. Potential for restoring partnership between the EU and Belarus is very vague, primarily due to the elimination of partnership and dialogue tools (OSCE, EURONEST), and also due to the serious deterioration of relations with some countries after 19 December (Poland, Germany, Ukraine). At the moment it is very difficult to predict what political force and what institutional platform would be able to overcome this crisis.
Last week, Belarusian Foreign Minister Makei participated in the foreign ministers’ meeting of the Eastern Partnership and Visegrad Group initiative hosted by Warsaw. The Belarusian FM emphasized Belarus' interest in cooperation in the transport sector, which could be due to Belarus’ desire to export electricity surplus after Belarus finished construction of the nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Minsk expressed concerns about Warsaw’s stance on the Belarusian NPP, as it refused to buy electricity from Belarus and supported Vilnius’ protest on this issue. Following accusations by the Belarusian leadership and the state media against western states, including Poland, of training "nationalist militants", Minsk did not agree on the visit of the European Parliament deputies from Lithuania and Germany to Belarus and to the NPP construction site near Ostrovets in particular. In addition, the Belarusian authorities have stepped up efforts to enforce education in Russian in Polish-language schools in Grodno and Vaukavysk. Should a rift in Belarusian-Polish relations persist, the Belarusian authorities are likely to step up the pressure on the Polish-speaking minority in Belarus.