Future of Belarus in the EURONEST
On 21 April during a meeting with the Belarusian MPs in Minsk, the Head of the Parliamentary delegation of Azerbaijan to the Parliamentary Assembly of the EURONEST Ali Huseynov spoke against the policy of isolation of Belarus and called on other “Eastern Partnership” countries to defend full membership of Belarus in it.
The statement by the Head of the Azerbaijani Parliamentary Delegation is in line with the statements made by the Head of the Parliamentary Delegation of Armenia to the EURONEST Vahan Hovhannisyan, during an enlarged meeting of the Bureau of the European Parliament on 25-26 January. The position of the Armenian Delegation regarding Belarusian involvement in the EURONEST was also supported by an official representative of the Ukrainian Parliamentary Ddelegation.
One can argue that the official Belarus made progress in building up its “internal” lobby in the EURONEST, given it was originally excluded from it for non-compliance with the democratic standards of the OSCE. To date, the Belarusian lobby consists of the Heads of Delegations of Armenia and Azerbaijan with a moderate supported by the Ukrainian delegation. The Belarusian lobbying group is headed by Deputy of the National Assembly, member of the Communist Party and Head of the Parliamentary Commission for International Affairs and Relations with the CIS, appearing in the EU “black list”, Igor Karpenko.
On the other hand, Belarus failed to form “external” lobby in Brussels. The European Parliament in the person of EP Delegation to the EURONEST Kristian Vigenin, supported by the EP President Jerzy Buzek spoke emphatically that following the 19 December events in Minsk, Belarus could not be represented in the EURONEST at the official level. The following meeting of the EURONEST is scheduled for 3 May and most likely will be held without the official Belarusian Delegation.
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.