Belarusian democrats: There is a threat of ‘Lukashenization’ of Europe

Javier Solana’s visit to Belarus and his talks with the Belarusian dictator were not appropriate in the context of stepped up political crackdown. The EU policy should be based on European values.

It has been stated at the press-conference in Minsk by the former chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus, the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) Stanislau Shushkevich, the leader of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov, the former candidate for presidency in Belarus Alyaksandr Kazulin, the former political prisoner, former minister of foreign economic ties of Belarus Mikhail Marynich and the leader of the Belarusian Popular Front party Lyavon Barshcheuski.

The leader of the Belarusian Popular Front party stated that the visit of the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) of the EU Javier Solana, and statements about possible entering of Belarus into the Eastern Partnership project are absolutely inappropriate considering the political events taking place in Belarus, when new and new political prisoners appear, and repressions against democrats are just becoming harsher. Moreover, the politician is concerned by the fact that the essence and results of Javier Solana’s talks with Alyaksandr Lukashenka are still unknown to the public.

“I would like to note that the Belarusian Popular Front party supported the initiative of creation of the Eastern Partnership program from the very start. But the events of the last weeks during which high European officials visited Belarus have given us some hard thinking. We believe that before the European Union will start developing relations with Belarus, free election should be held in Belarus. We are greatly concerned by the context in which the rapprochement of the official Minsk with Europe is taking place. It is emergence of new political prisoners, brutal actions of policemen and riot policemen during peaceful oppositional rallies, arrests and imprisonments for use of Belarusian language. Europe shouldn’t be involved in the so-called subterranean diplomacy, as it happens for instance when Lukashenka holds talks with Putin, and the nation is unaware of what they are talking about. The context and the time chosen for these initiatives are far from being optimal,” the leader of the Belarusian Popular Front Lyavon Barshcheuski stated.

Lyavon Barshcheuski called upon European politicians not to contribute to legitimization of the dictatorship of Lukashenka. He reminded that in 1998 Europe tried to hold talks with the Belarusian authorities with the help of the head of the Consultation and Observation mission of the OSCE Hans-Georg Wieck. As a result in 1999 leaders of the Belarusian opposition Viktar Hanchar, Anatol Krasouski, Yury Zakharanka, and in 2000 journalist Dzmitry Zavadski were abducted and assassinated.

“I am afraid that soon after these present “negotiations” repressions in Belarus are to be stepped up. The first results of such a policy of the European Union are obvious: 5 new political prisoners have appeared in Belarus,” the politician said.

The former chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus Stanislau Shushkevich was surprised that the visit of the EU High Representative has taken place despite of the fact that the official Minsk had fulfilled none of the conditions for the country’s democratization.

“I do not understand why Javier Solana has arrived to Belarus. Why the four conditions offered to Belarus during Istanbul summit back in 1999 are forgotten right now? Why 12 conditions laid down the European Union in 2009 are forgotten? None of these conditions have been fulfilled. The political prisoners have been substituted by others. Why Javier Solana is saying now that he does not make any conditions to Lukashenka’s regime now? And it happens after the past “parliamentary elections” were falsified; the ODIHR OSCE recognized that there had been no vote count, after peaceful demonstrations were cracked down in Belarus. The policy shouldn’t be immoral,” Stanislau Shushkevich is convinced.

The chairman of the Supreme Soviet of Belarus reminded that elections to the European Parliament are to take place soon, and it is possible that the recent actions of the officials of the EU are related to the fact that they want to present development of the relations with dictatorial Belarus as a success of their foreign policy. Stanislau Shushkevich warns Europeans against such a move.

“I believe that the words of Mikhail Gorbachov who said that “politics is the art of the possible” should be forgotten, and the words of Vaclav Havel should be recalled that “politics is the art of impossible”. I would like European authorities to recall that they are Europeans, and pursue a European policy,” the former leader of the state said.

The former political prisoner and former minister of Foreign economical ties Mikhail Marynich stressed that European politicians are “apparently misled about the Belarusian political life”.

“Recently very many high officials from Europe visited Belarus. And the result is equal to zero. Democratization of the society has a zero result, human rights – a zero result. As before, lawlessness, intimidation, crackdown on dissent, repressions reign in the country. Political prisoners have filled remand prisons, the fates of abducted politicians Hanchar, Zakharanka, Krasouski, and journalist Zavadski, are still unknown, and the regime does not carry out an independent investigation. Till when the electoral laws in Belarus would allow the authorities coin “elegant” victories at the presidential and parliamentary elections?

It seems to me that if these questions were discussed between Solana and Lukashenka, the guest would not leave Belarus with such optimism. The European official’s shrinking from 12 conditions of the European Union demonstrates that Europe personified by Solana is misled on issues of the Belarusian political life. In this situation continuing to play into the hands of Lukashenka means to close one’s eyes to repressions carried out in the country today. Forgetfulness of high-ranking European officials relating Lukashenka’s regime’s illegitimate status is irresponsive. Europe is making a great mistake. I really want to believe that it is a political delusion, and not a calculated strategy,” the diplomat stated.

A former political prisoner Alyaksandr Kazulin noted that Belarusians are waiting for real European values – freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom of associations –to become a part of their life.

“The events of the past weeks set us thinking seriously. All citizens of Belarus certainly asked themselves what would be brought by the visit of the European official Javier Solana. But unfortunately, all the talks were held behind the closed doors. Their results are not seen so far. Deputies of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Javier Solana and the European parliament delegation have visited us. It is most striking that the “European week” was taking place against the background of the new wave of political repressions.

A very serious question arises: what policy is pursued by the European Union? What nature does it have, is it pragmatic or do they stick to morals? We are waiting for some concrete results of Solana’s visit. And we hope that the things which were taking place behind the closed doors would be implemented in practice. It primarily should concern not only narrow pragmatic interests relating Belarus, but would concern really fundamental values Belarusian citizens are deprived of. Belarusians are longing for them, to say the truth. If we are living in a democratic country, we want European values to become a part of our life certainly. We welcome the processes which have started, but we would like to see their concrete result; system changes, not signal ones,” the former political prisoner noted.

The leader of the civil campaign “European Belarus” Andrei Sannikov stated that today only the democratic forces of Belarus are a guarantor of the country’s normal development and of searching for the way out of the crisis met by Belarus.

“I would like to stress that the aim of the democratic forces is Belarus in the United Europe. If there was no Lukashenka’s regime, we wouldn’t be standing in the lobby now waiting for an opportunity to be invited to the Eastern partnership, but we would be prior to Romania and Bulgaria. For us the European vector is the most important vector. For us, not for Lukashenka. Belarusian democrats are a guarantor of a normal development of the country and of search for the way out of the crisis we have find ourselves in.

But what is happening today? We are offered to close our eyes to the events in Belarus, for stepped up political repressions, and to accept Lukashenka’s regime as a member of the Eastern partnership, to give the dictator a possibility to represent our country on equal terms with leaders of democratic states. Once we warned our friends from Russia about a possibility of Russia’s ‘lukashenization’, and now we see that it has happened. Now there is a threat of Europe’s lukashenizaton. We should understand the threat of games with the last dictatorship in Europe very well,” the politician said.

Andrei Sannikov warns European politicians against inviting Belarus to the Eastern Partnership.

“Let’s proceed from the facts, let us bring to mind what happened after statements that invitation of Belarus to the Eastern partnership is possible. Lukashenka signed the agreement on creation of an integrated regional air defence system with Russia. The CSTO punitive collective rapid reaction force has been created. Military exercises are being prepared, the largest integration of Russian troops to Belarus. Lukashenka’s clear statements are heard: “Our strategic military partner and friend is Russia”. What kind of “democratization” is taking place in the country is clear to everyone: the number of political prisoners is growing. The conditions of the Eastern partnership stipulate that equal approaches to political and economic issues should exist. It is broadening of cooperation based on the same reforms. What equal reforms could the democratic united Europe and dictatorial Belarus have? It is not journalism, its’ jurisprudence!” stressed A. Sannikov.

However, the leader of the European Belarus is convinced that changes in Belarus are inevitable. The main thing is solidarity of Belarusians in struggle for free future of their country.

“Belarusians should demonstrate solidarity, and primarily with the people who are sacrificing their health now, who are behind the bars for their political creed. We should also address the Belarusians of the whole world, for them to comprehend the threat to their native Belarus today. But I would like to note that despite of all these negative things, the dynamics of the processes taking place in Belarus and around it, to say that changes in Belarus are approaching. If we would resolutely defend our dignity, our rights, our independence, it would happen very soon,” Andrei Sannikov is convinced.