Minsk's refusal to participate in EU program "Dialogue on modernization" exacerbates the crisis of bilateral relations
On 9 July in Minsk, Evdochenko, the Belarusian Ambassador to Belgium and the Permanent Representative of Belarus to the EU, said that Belarus was ready to participate only in EU programs that were jointly developed and offered.
Official Minsk demonstrates that it is not going to participate in EU partnership programs, developed unilaterally. The inhibition of another project on establishing relations points to the continuation of bilateral policy crisis: Minsk is not prepared to make concessions, and Brussels is not ready to engage in dialogue with the Belarusian authorities.
The refusal of the Belarusian side to participate in the EU program \"Dialogue on modernization\" was predictable, and had an objective basis. According to the statement of Evdochenko, this program was developed without consultation with the representation of Belarus in the EU. In addition, the program has already been launched with the participation of the opposition, civil and independent expert community and without the participation of the authorities.
These two factors lead to the fact that the Belarusian authorities are not interested in joining the already existing program, which engages their political opponents. Therefore, the most likely further reaction of the authorities will be at minimum to ignore the program.
More active blocking actions by the authorities, up to the restriction of contacts between Belarusian and European participants, are also likely. In the end, the authorities’ reaction depends on the activity and the spheres of activity of the participants of the program \"Dialogue for modernization\" inside Belarus.
The inhibition of this program at the official level in Belarus will contribute to the inhibition of other Belarus-European projects under the regional program \"Eastern Partnership\", and, in particular, the National Platform of Civil Society Forum. As a consequence, the Western policy vector of the official Minsk remains locked, whereas current projects are limited to a narrow sector of non-governmental and opposition organizations.
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.