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.
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.