Foreign Ministry risks being trapped in own initiative
On January 18, Belarus’ Foreign Minister Vladimir Makey met with the heads of the EU diplomatic missions, the Vatican, the U.S. and Switzerland.
Frequent meetings of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry leadership with diplomatic representatives of Western countries should be considered within the rigid and unchanging frameworks set by Alexander Lukashenko. The latter is still not ready to fulfill the main requirement - the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners.
Following the appointment of Vladimir Makey as Foreign Minister in August 2012, the Ministry has significantly increased its publicity, especially where it concerns Western policies of Belarus. Numerous press releases of the Foreign Ministry can really create the impression of a careful preparation for a diplomatic breakthrough in the relations between Belarus and the European Union and the United States.
In particular, over the last 4 months the Belarusian Foreign Ministry leadership met with the US Charge d’Affaires in Belarus Mr. Goldrich at least three times. A month ago, Mr. Mackay met with Director of the department for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, regional cooperation and the OSCE of the European Union External Action Service Mr. Wiegand in Minsk. On January 18, Deputy Foreign Minister Mr. Kupchina held ministerial consultations with the Lithuanian delegation, during which the preparations for the Eastern Partnership Summit to be held in Vilnius in November 2013 were discussed.
However, this active and impressive PR-campaign by Belarusian MFA should be regarded within the existing rigid political framework defined by President Lukashenko. In particular, the Foreign Ministry and personally Minister Makey are incapable of solving the main political conflict between Belarus and the West over the release and rehabilitation of political prisoners. In turn, a number of policy statements made by Western diplomatic representatives in December 2012 (Czech Foreign Minister Schwarzenberg, US Charge d’Affaires Goldrich) demonstrated that Minister Makey failed to soften the EU and US positions in this conflict.
Thus, the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, in a sense, is in a deadlock situation: the appointment of Makey as Foreign Minister simply increased Ministry’s international and public activity and visibility, but on principle incapable to achieve the desired political effect - as the issue of the release of political prisoners is not within the MFA competence
During searches of social and "green" activists and anarchists, law enforcement has seized computers, mobile phones and publications. The authorities have also exerted additional pressure on supporters of unauthorized street protests and independent lawyers, who represented defendants in the White Legion case. The security services have stepped up the persecution of opponents before the street protests announced by the opposition. Apparently, the Belarusian authorities aspire that participants in street protests would reduce in number and that the low interest of the population to socio-political agenda before the local election campaign would retain.