On 13 August Ministers of the states of the European Union placed flowers for the killed in the protests against the regime of Alksandr Lukashenka at the metro station ‘Pushkinskaya’ in Minsk. A crowd of about one thousand and five hundred people chanted to them in gratitude with words ‘Spasibo!‘ and ‚Dziakuj!‘ (Thank you). Dirk Schuebel, Head of the EU delegation to Belarus started his address to the gathered people with words of solidarity with victims of violence and encouraged the government of Belarus to release all unlawfully arrested people and allow them to protest peacefully. The diplomat also announced about the discussion planned on Friday afternoon between Ministers of the Foreign Affairs of the Community on issues related to the situation in Belarus.
We have an open question whether the Ambassador of Hungary placed flowers together with his colleagues from Minsk. Most probably, he did. His country did not block the statement denouncing A. Lukashenka‘s regime adopted earlier by 27 members of the EU in regards to potential sanctions against Belarus. Budapest already encouraged others not to denounce the Belarusian dictator to ostracism. As Peter Szijjarto, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary told there was no need to injure development of relations between the EU and Minsk and stop partnership programmes by imposing sanctions.
Budapest turned out to be the biggest sceptic on the issue of sanctions against the cannibal Belarusian regime. His position is significantly different from the one that was expressed prior to discussions by Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, Austria, Poland and Estonia that unambiguously supported sanctions. Ursula von der Leyen, Head of the European Commission, supported them, too prior to the discussion of Friday and on Twitter told about necessity of additional sanctions against those who trample democratic values and human rights in Belarus.
Presidents of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have not limited themselves only to the measures planned by the EU and on 14 August issued a declaration with requirements to Minsk to stop violence and respect fundamental freedoms, human and citizen rights, including freedom of speech, media and meetings and safety of journalist, urgently release all arrested protestors, stop further persecution of people and immediately initiate a dialogue with people of Belarus.
Countries, initiators of the declaration, urged to hold National Reconciliation Forum in Belarus, which would consist of representatives from the government and public, as a suitable step towards initiation of a real national dialogue. They also announced that they were ready to be mediators in order to reach a peaceful solution of the crisis and strengthen independence and sovereignty of Belarus.
Vilnius ‘personally’ offered the EU to establish a fund for victims of repressions in Belarus. Probably because of that the US news agency Associated Press on 14 August informed that although Lithuania is a quite small country at the level of the EU, however it plays a disproportionately big role in the situation in Belarus and even took over the role of a leader from Poland.
European media on the eve of the discussion between Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU reminded that in 2016 when Minsk released political prisoners the relations between the Community and Belarus started improving and with the efforts of Hungary arms embargo was mitigated. In reaction to the scandalous presidential elections in 2010 the EU did not allow some Belarusian goods reach the market since 2011, did not grant visas and froze 174 accounts of people associated with the regime, including A. Lukashenka.
The present outbreak of violence in cities and towns of Belarus swept all brittle signs of progress as the news agency as a reference to unnamed diplomats and functionaries of the EU, the present political vector seems obvious, we just have to take the extent of pressure towards Minsk into consideration so it was useful (not too extensive?) but not to push the dictator A. Lukashenka, who is finally frightened to lose his power to go to the embrace of Moscow.
The fact that Moscow is ‘on check’ was indicated by the Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia Maria Zakharova in her statement on the eve of the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU saying as if external forces interfere with internal affairs of Belarus in order to disunite the society and destabilize the situation. She also mentioned that Moscow has already seen use of similar methods several times in other countries (of course, first of all in Ukraine – A.S.). On 15 August A. Lukashenka repeated the same after a bloody elections drama after he ‘calmed down‘ and ‘started coming back to his senses‘.
Svetlana Alexievich, the winner of the Nobel Prize in her interview to Svoboda.org (on 12 August) quoted Anatoly Lebedko, leader of the opposition, according to whom officers of Russian special purpose units (OMON) are working in Belarus. Thus, we have a very traditionally open question who is interfering with whom.
Finally, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU on Friday afternoon agreed on individual sanctions against those who are responsible for the non-democratic elections and street violence. This has been supported by majority, thus the European Commission started technical preparation works. As Ivan Korčok, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia concretized, the diplomatic services of the EU were obligated to make a ‘black list‘of Belarusian functionaries, representatives of internal affairs and special militia forces, who would be subject to individual sanctions. It is planned to adopt the final resolution during the meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the EU that will be held in Berlin on 27-28 August.
Nonetheless, diplomats and functionaries of the EU quoted by Reuters indicated that a lot will depend on Hungary, the biggest sceptic of sanctions against Minsk, how far the EU is ready to go with sanctions.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary got himself into a complicated situation in execution of instructions given by his boss – the Prime Minister Viktor Orban. On the occasion of the first visit of V. Orban to Minsk at the beginning of June the leader of Belarus did not miss an opportunity to make a statement that his country was ready to set up dialogue with NATO, however based on respect and equality of rights. A. Lukashenka called Hungary the closest partner in the EU, which was probably the country that is prone to authoritarianism most of all and posed a threat that Belarus and Hungary were ready to have a strict reaction to pressure from abroad regarding their nuclear programmes. They had in mind projects of the Russian concern Rosatom – Astravets Nuclear Power Plant (PP) in Belarus and installation of two new power blocks in Paks Nuclear Power Plant in Hungary.
‘In return‘ V.Orban in Minsk urged the EU to lift sanctions against A. Lukashenka‘s regime regarding violations of human rights. Thus, the Belarusian dictator, who arranged a ‘bloody feast‘ in towns and cities of his own country, had in mind the ‘argument‘ of pressure over Europe in V. Orban‘s person.
We should remember that vitality of the current regime of Hungary is in a wonderful way supported by money from the EU funds (make 4 percent of the GDP of Hungary), majority of which is being stolen by ‘local‘ structures of oligarchs. This has been proved by investigations conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office OLAF. Thus, it is silly to think that V. Orban wants to break relations with the EU, especially when he can almost blackmail the principal states of the EU in close relations with authoritarian regimes – Russian leader Vladimir Putin, presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev. A. Lukashenka nicely blends in to this company.
Prime Minister of Hungary agitates for Europe of neoliberal democracy, is arranging a regime in his country and propagates it in the EU that respects elections; however which does not trust other elements of democracy such as rule of law and separation of powers. As a political commentator of Hungary Sandor Csintal indicated in his interview to BBC, the only way to V. Orban to stay in power is to have more authoritariniasm. His governance is based on fear and relations that remind of feudal relations. Therefore, he is looking for his soulmates in politics. As we can see, he finds them not only in Russia.
It is probable that Hungary plays a weird role of ‘preserver of authoritarianism‘ in the Central and Eastern Europe, which is pity – during revolutions at the end of ninth decade of the last century it was one of the heralds of freedom. By the way, Hungary was the first to allow Germans from the Eastern Germany to go to the Western Germany through the border with Austria without any coordination with Moscow and other states of the Warsaw Pact.
Talking about Minsk in the context of the recent events, since 2004 when the Baltic States joined the EU, Belarus used to be included in the agenda of the EU until year 2010. Conditions for getting closer to it were very clear – democracy and human rights. Minsk used to ignore them all the time cunningly. Now more than ever it is obvious that all these ‘manoeuvres‘ ended in nothing. As long as no coordinated politics exists, A. Lukashenka negotiating with each leader in person (for instance, V. Orban) successfully splits up Europe. The only reply to manipulations of the Belarusian autocrat is solidarity of the democratic world.