Lukashenko’s participation in Eastern Partnership Summit in Riga depends on Kremlin
At a meeting with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics, President Lukashenko said that Belarus counted on Latvia’s assistance in promoting cooperation between Belarus and other EU member states. The Belarusian government expects to unblock relations with European capitals and receive an invitation to participate in the Riga Eastern Partnership Summit in May this year at the highest level - for President Lukashenko. However, official Minsk is not ready to fulfil the basic requirements of the EU to initiate the normalisation process in Belarusian-European relations, i.e. to release the remaining political prisoners. In addition, amid the Kremlin’s sharply negative attitude to the EU’s Eastern Partnership Programme, when deciding on participation in the Riga Summit, Belarus would have to take into account potentially negative reaction from Moscow, which seriously reduces the likelihood of Lukashenko’s participation.
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.