Belarus attempts to stave off the EU sanctions’ extension
Foreign Minister Martynov’s European visits meant to stave off the potential extension of the EU sanctions before the Parliamentary elections. Simultaneously, Belarus is nevertheless not intending to fulfill the EU’s political demands and is ready to freeze the conflict as is.
On July 23-27, Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov visited Brussels and Rome. On July 23rd he attended an Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting in Brussels. On July 25th – 27th Mr. Martynov met with OSCE PA President R. Migliori in Rome.
The main purpose of Martynov’s visit to Brussels was to prevent another extension of sanctions against the Belarusian government and business. Previously, a number of senior European officials (Wiegand, Fule) talked about such a possibility if Belarus failed to fulfill the demands to release and rehabilitate political prisoners. However, Minsk has not made any significant moves in this regard.
Most likely, Martynov’s visit meant to lower the degree of the conflict. Foreign Minister’s presence at that meeting was a minimally acceptable response for Belarus and an indication that Minsk was concerned about the likely extension of sanctions. At the same time, last week Belarusian media disseminated comments by Slovenian and Belarusian businessmen Mr. Shkrabets and Mr. Moshensky about the sanctions policy’s hopelessness.
During the meeting Martynov made it clear that Belarus was not going to fulfill the conditions put forward for the resumption of a political dialogue and, in response to criticism, accused the EU of democracy deficit. Martynov noted that Belarus was ready to participate in regional energy and transport projects within the Eastern Partnership, but only if they were bilaterally approved.
Belarusian authorities were not happy about the format of the European Dialogue for modernization with Belarus programme, namely, its development and launch without consultations with the Belarusian side. In early July this was stated by a representative of Belarus in the EU, Mr. Yeudachenka. Moreover, the government is certainly unhappy about a broad representation of the opposition forces in the programme.
Belarus’ European policy in the coming months will be determined by the election campaign and the actual parliamentary elections to be held in September. Even if these elections once again are not recognized by the West, Minsk is not genuinely interested in holding them in confrontational environment. Mr. Martynov met personally with the Chairman of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Mr. Migliori, who had previously agreed to send a full-fledged election observation mission to Belarus.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.