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Belarus and EU on Verge of Diplomatic Break

Ostatnia aktualizacja: 10.03.2012 20:30
Minsk should invite back Polish and EU ambassadors, as they both had been expelled by Belarussian authorities. This step could restore pre-diplomatic-war relations, Jacek Protasiewicz, Vice-President of the European Parliament says.
Jacek Protasiewicz rezygnuje z kandydowania do PE
Jacek Protasiewicz rezygnuje z kandydowania do PEFoto: Parlament Europejski

If Minsk does not decide to invite Polish and EU ambassadors, the diplomatic break between the European Union and Belarus seems very probable, Vice-President of the European Parliament Jacek Protasiewicz says.

On February 28th, Minsk asked the head of the EU representative office and the Polish ambassador to Belarus “to travel to their capitals for consultation”. It was retaliation for new diplomatic sanctions imposed on Minsk in connection with the abuse of human rights in Belarus. In response to that step the European Union has recalled all its 27 ambassadors to Belarus.

In two weeks time the EU foreign ministers will return to the matter of economic sanctions against Belarus, which had been set on the agenda even before the outbreak of diplomatic war. “If the diplomatic conflict is not stopped now and in March - April the EU adopts further sanctions against Minsk, the conflict will escalate and the isolation of Belarus is inevitable”, Jacek Protasiewicz says.

Jacek Protasiewicz emphasised that the EU does not intend to isolate Belarus. The EU  is looking forward to the release of political prisoners and would like Minsk to introduce political and economic reforms in the country. “The European Parliament still hopes that the diplomatic war will be halted”, Jacek Protasiewicz said. That is why the European Parliament adjourned the debate on a resolution calling for economic sanctions against Belarus. Previously, it was to be adopted at the session 12-15 March. The resolution will be discussed two weeks later instead.

According to the EP Vice-President, the draft resolution has a very tough wording and contains not only the call for sanctions, but also paragraphs concerning the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus. The European Parliament asks the International Ice Hockey Federation to abolish the championship in Belarus in 2014.

Jacek Protasiewicz reminded that the European Parliament is especially concerned with the fate of starving oppositionist, Syarhey Kavalenka. This political prisoner is on hunger strike from December until now and he is in very serious condition. “It would be unnecessary death. We hope that Minsk will sober up”, the Vice-President of the EP said. He added that if there is no visible change in Belarus, the EP position will remains strong. On the other side, the Parliament is ready to "respond positively to positive signals."

fot. European Parliament Audiovisual Unit

Report on Belarus: When will the ambassadors return to Minsk? Is there any chance it will be soon?

Jacek Protasiewicz, Vice-President of the European Parliament: Their return to Minsk will be possible after Belarussian authorities withdraw their decision that caused the summoning of the EU ambassadors.

I remind it was a decision to expel the Polish and the EU ambassadors from Belarus. So if this decision is withdrawn and the Polish ambassador and the EU ambassador are invited again to Minsk, all the EU countries may be considering sending their ambassadors back to Belarus.

Have all the EU countries summoned their ambassadors from Minsk?

According to my knowledge, all countries acted in very loyal way, they expressed their solidarity.

Even Slovenia?

Yes, even Slovenia. The Slovenia’s decision to block sanctions against Belarus has been widely discussed in the media and in the European Parliament. As a result, Slovenia began to understand that purely economic, commercial reasons are not sufficient to block a common policy towards Belarus, the policy of sanctions.

The return of ambassadors and the reestablishment of normal relations UE-Belarus are conditional.

The comeback of the ambassadors is dependent solely on the decision of Minsk - Minsk expelled the Polish ambassador and the EU representative.

Further sanctions against Belarus are dependent on the fate of the political prisoners. If Belarussian authorities release the political prisoners, the European Union may refrain from further economic sanctions against Belarus.

These are two sides of the same coin, but two different sides. One is diplomatic war caused by irrational behavior of Minsk, by expelling the Polish and EU ambassadors from Belarus. The other side is the issue of economic sanctions. They will be discussed in March, regardless of the development of the diplomatic war, except that Belarus would release political prisoners. In that case I can imagine the EU will refrain from further sanctions against Belarus.

The European Parliament planned to adopt a resolution on economic sanctions for Belarus during this session, 12-15 March. It was adjourned.

At the time of previously unseen tensions between the EU and Belarus we decided that it is better not to escalate the conflict, but let the Belarusian the time to reflect and to cool the emotions.

The Belarusian decision is a cause of diplomatic war. So the two weeks before the next session, it is time for Minsk, so that it could withdraw the decision about expelling Polish and EU ambassadors from Belarus.

Then we would come back to the situation which had been before the diplomatic conflict. That does not mean the normalization of relations with Belarus, because thi is dependent on the release of political prisoners. Their release is the key matter here, if we were to consider the cooperation with Belarus on the same principles as with the other countries of the Eastern Partnership.

Are there any signals that Minsk intends to change its position? It should be a statement by Belarusian authorities? Apparently, there were such comments that the ambassadors actually might come back any time.

The Belarussian Foreign Ministry knows the effective diplomatic channels to convey information, which is not a gossip or an informal comments, speculation. It is obvious that the return of the Polish ambassador may occur only with the consent of the Belarussian authorities and that information should reach us through diplomatic channels.

What will be the consequences if Minsk does not change its stance?

It would mean serious isolation of Belarus. This may result in breaking all relations with the European Union, which means de facto Belarus’ dependence on its eastern neighbor, Russia, and not just in economical dimension but also in political sense. It would be the adverse scenario both for Belarus and for the leaders of Belarus. But the decision if this scenario it will be implemented depends entirely on them. They have the key to resolve the situation.

Is the risk of breaking the diplomatic relations high?

(Breaking the diplomatic relations) is very probable because if the present diplomatic conflict does not stop, and if  it is followed by further sanctions in March, the tension will escalate. So then the Belarus’ isolation is inevitable.

And how to understand the Minsk decision to expel the Polish and the EU ambassadors for consultations? Is this a signal that Minsk changed its policy towards the European Union and whether it requires revision of EU policy towards Minsk?

In my opinion, such a violent and unprecedented decision resulted from Minsk being concerned with the implementation of economic sanctions. The economic sanctions were considered two weeks ago. They had not been imposed then, but they are announced to come in force in March-April. The fear of economic sanctions led to a violent, emotional reaction of Minsk. However, sucha reaction cannot stop the sanctions. The only thing that can stop the sanctions is the release of political prisoners and the return to dialogue with the European Union on the economic and political reform.


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