EU to punish Belarus for 'suppressing democracy'

At a Minsk ceremony Friday to inaugurate a fourth term for re-elected President Alexander Lukashenko, the Ambassadors of the European were conspicuous by their absence under the pretext of business in Lithuania.

The no-turn-up came one day after the European Parliament urged the European Union to punish Belarus for rough-handling pro-democracy protests following Lukashenko's re-election last month. It advised the EU to follow Poland and Lithuania in denying entry to top Belarusian officials, restrict loans to Belarus, exclude it from the Eastern Partnership Programme and ask international sporting bodies to reconsider plans for Belarus to host the 2014 world championship in ice hockey.

The EU is expected to take appropriate decisions at the next meeting of its foreign ministers on the 31st. In the meantime, the European media continue to accuse Belarus of resurrecting Stalinism.

For an opinion on the significance of this rhetoric and posturing, we turned to the head of the Moscow-based Effective Policies Foundation Dr. Kirill Tanayev:

"Although highly symbolic, the no-turn-up by the Ambassadors cannot overrule the underlying interests that govern European politics. In fact, it boils down to a demonstration of a low point from which the West is prepared to rekindle dialogue with Belarus."

As for the proposed sanctions, they are more or less toothless and unlikely to change anything. At least so says the Russian post-Soviet affairs expert Dr. Alexei Vlasov:

"Waging a sluggish Cold War on Belarus is absolutely pointless. Each side will continue to hold its ground - the EU, lecture Belarus on democracy, Lukashenko, proudly shrug off European threats as ridiculous, and Russia, pursue deeper economic integration with Belarus. Lukashenko will firmly sit on as his country's President."


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