Poland and Germany's foreign ministers, Radek Sikorski and Guido Westerwelle are to meet today with President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, demanding that presidential elections in the ex-Soviet nation on December 19 be free and fair.
Sikorski and Westerwelle will also be in talks in Minsk with Belarusian foreign minister Sergei Martynov, opposition leaders and acting head of the Union of Poles Angelika Orechwo, an organisation not recognised by the Lukashenko regime.
Minister Sikorski said last Thursday that he hopes the Belarusian elections meet European standards "in terms of clarity and transparency". He added that Poland would encourage the Belarusian authorities to stage elections "better than before."
It is thought that the two foreign ministers will be giving Lukashenka a clear choice: if elections are free and fair - in contrast to previous ballots in the country - then Belarus can expect closer cooperation with the European Union, which will help reduce the nation's dependence on Russia.
Europe's last dictator?
Opposition activists want the European Union to insist that the regime ensure that all citizens have access to independent media during the election campaign.
Pro-EU presidential candidate Andrei Sannikov said last week that the European Union and the rest of the world should not be naive about Lukashenko's ability to reform. "Europe should proceed from the view that Lukashenko is the last dictatorship in Europe and nothing will change until he goes," he said.
He added that voters will be far less likely than four years ago to accept a flawed election. "People will be ready, more ready than in 2006, to go to the streets and protest the election results."
Agnieszka Romaszewska-Guzy, director Belsat TV, was sceptical on how far Lukashenko has changed in recent years, even though relations between Moscow and Minsk are poor and he needs the West more than ever.
It's hard to imagine he can be convinced to carry out fully democratic elections. No dictator wants to give up power, " she told Polish Radio. (