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.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.