Open Letter of Aleksandr Milinkevich to Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus 2007

Michael Batiukov

Minsk, Belarus

Dear Alexander Grigorievich,

It's not easy for me to address you but I do understand that I have no right not to use all chances for the future of our Belarus. I do agree with your view that the situation in economy may become catastrophic. This must not be allowed.

You always stress that the main goal of your policy is to ensure the sovereignty of the country and prosperity for the people. For democratic forces it is also the main goal.

Hope that you were sincere when you spoke about importance of developing good relations with

Europe. Many Belarusians have noted your words about the necessity to have a second, European wing for a normal development of Belarus. I'm convinced that it can be achieved in the nearest time. The conditions for cooperation with united Europe are well known. They are contained in the proposals of the leadership of the European Union addressed to the government and the people of Belarus.

I believe that we do the right thing promoting a European choice for Belarus. I also believe that continued confrontation in the country will not serve the Belarusian people. I know that despite the differences we can achieve results if our goal is independence of the country and a better life for the people.

Today the question of the future of the country is the most important one. The challenges of the modern world - energy, demography, ecology and humanitarian issues - directly affect Belarus. The adequate answer to these challenges can be provided only by a united nation responsible for the future generations. In order to assess the situation correctly and to move towards strengthening of the statehood it is necessary to recognize that reconciliation of the positions of the authorities and the opposition is as necessary for the development of the society as the two vectors -European and Russian ones.

The Belarusian opposition is in general constructive. It doesn't have radical groups planning to use force to get rid of the authorities. Despite all the efforts of the secret services to use the threat of so called Belarusian terrorists the latter have never been found. People do not believe in imaginary armed conspiracies of the opposition. On the contrary, all can see that the force is used only by the authorities against peaceful demonstrations, against the youth, women, and the elderly. Such methods could be used to maintain the power but they will never gain the respect of power.

I'm not an advocate of radical scenario. For me most appropriate would be an evolution of the Belarusian situation towards democratization of political and public life of the country, but this evolution must be a steady and a guaranteed one.

During last election campaigns I met thousands of voters; hundred thousands put their signatures to support the democratic candidates. I can claim without any doubt that millions of our compatriots support a European choice, offered by the opposition and want democratic changes in Belarus. It will be no exaggeration to say that the whole world watches us. Old methods do not work anymore.

Belarusians have a traditional way of helping each other - "talaka". It's time to have "talaka" for the sake of Belarus.

The last events around Belarus cause a serious concern for the people. They worry about worsening of economic situation and the threat to the independence of the country. The responsibility to prevent it lies on the elite of the country, both in power and in the opposition.

You yourself say that Belarus is threatened with economic strangulation and that without investment from the developed countries, first of all European states, the situation cannot be rescued. During my meetings with the leaders of the European Union and many European countries I discussed the issues of energy security of Belarus. I always spoke against economic sanctions against our country. However it is clear that a broad cooperation could be developed only with a democratic Belarus that observes the European standards. Our country loses billions of euros of assistance and investments for only one reason - its non-democratic political system. An authoritarian state in Europe today cannot develop successfully.

In different times national elites of such countries as Greece, Spain, Portugal and Slovakia, which were self-isolated, understood the necessity of changes, made their choice in favor of democracy and thus ensured the real prosperity of their people. I can use the international reputation and contacts of democratic forces for a joint solution of urgent problems facing our country.

However this cannot be done if my colleagues remain in prisons, if force is used against the youth, which we all witnessed in recent days, if the pressure is applied to NGOs and political parties, if the rights of independent trade unions are infringed, if the full-fledged functioning of the independent press is not restored, if human rights are grossly violated despite the international obligations of Belarus.

It is necessary to overcome the divide in the Belarusian society in the nearest time. The best way for it is a dialogue. Only as a result of a dialogue between the opposition and the authorities and common position we can count on talks with Europe in order to develop an effective cooperation.

In my view a good opportunity to make steps towards each other could be a celebration of the day of proclamation of the Belarusian People's Republic. The date of March 25th 1918 is as important for the Belarusian independence as July 3rd 1944. Belarusian public has spoken in favor of a joint celebration of this day and I do believe that such celebration could be a starting point to demonstrate the beginning of unity of Belarusians.

We can find a common solution to overcome the confrontation in the society for prosperity and development of our beloved Belarus.

Alexander Milinkevich,

Presidential Candidate in the 2006 Election,

Winner of the European Parliament's Sakharov Award "Freedom of Thought"

Minsk, February 7, 2007