Lukashenko proposes Vatican to mediate Belarus-EU dialogue
On April 9, President Lukashenko met with Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Order of Malta, Paul Friedrich von Furherrom and on April 10 he met with the Apostolic Nuncio in the Republic of Belarus Claudio Gugerotti. During both meetings, the President noted that the Holy See could play a mediator role in the relations between Belarus and the Western European countries.
Lukashenko’s attempt to engage the Vatican in the negotiation process between Minsk and Brussels, first of all, implies the unwillingness of the Belarusian regime to fulfill the EU preconditions for normalization of relations. Therefore, the authorities propose to shift the Belarus-EU interstate dialogue to a new, inter-church level.
Secondly, Lukashenko made an allusion to a possible visit of the Pope to Belarus, which gives away a messianic desire of the Belarusian authorities to play a key role in the Eastern European region. If true, for instance, Belarus will be able to organize a historic meeting of representatives of the Catholic and the Orthodox churches in the country.
President Lukashenko has more than once talked about his desire to carry out such a civilizing mission and, apparently, did not part with this idea.
However, due to the low level of trust in the relations between the Belarusian government and the Catholic Church, as well as between the leadership of the neighboring countries, Russia and Poland in particular, this scenario is hardly probable. Therefore, the proposal made to the Holy See to mediate the Minsk-Brussels relations primarily demonstrates acute policy deficiency in the Presidential Administration.
Lukashenko’s milieu considers the Catholic Church as an alibi, which Minsk needs in the given circumstances to manipulate the political demands of the EU. In the best case scenario, the process of restoring the trust between the Vatican and Moscow will be mediated by Belarus. Such disproportionate geopolitical ambitions are rather common for Lukashenko’s policy, but in this particular case, they imply that in the confrontation with the West, the resources of Belarus are almost exhausted.
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.