Belarusian officials took the peak
It is curious that two days before this, the head of the Belarusian National Congress Nikolai Statkevich was once again detained in Minsk. Opposition politician noted the participation in two actions against the current Belarusian authorities - October 21 in the March of Angry Belarusians 2.0 and October 29 in a rally to commemorate the victims of Stalinism outside the republican KGB building.
European politicians usually react very violently to arrests or detentions of representatives of the Belarusian opposition. In the spring, for example, after the crackdown of the Day of Freedom and the first March of Disgruntled Belarusians, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Michael Link made a sharp criticism of the Minsk authorities, deputies of the European Parliament and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe protested.
The official representative of the head of EU diplomacy, Catherine Rey, issued a special communiqué in which she accused Minsk of violating the country's democratization obligations and warned: “The steps Belarus is taking to respect universal fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and human rights will remain key to building European Union relations with this country. "
Now all these warnings and “expressions of concern” are thrown aside. Today, the ladies of European diplomacy are making a curse for the president of Belarus, welcoming his obvious steps to distance themselves from Russia and draw closer to the European Union. Alexander Lukashenko was even invited to Brussels to attend the Eastern Partnership forum, scheduled for November 24.
Prior to that, for many years Lukashenko was “not inbound” to Europe. Last winter, the European Union removed the sanctions imposed earlier by the Belarusian president and lifted the ban on entry to the Commonwealth countries. Evil tongues claim that it was a kind of gratitude for bringing Belarus to the Russian market for sanctioned European products.
Now the Europeans went even further and invited Lukashenko themselves to Brussels. The invitation in Minsk was accepted and confirmed - the president will arrive at the summit. Last week, preparations for the Eastern Partnership meeting were held in Tallinn. Here, at two sites at once (assemblies with the participation of the heads of the foreign affairs agencies and the civil society conference of the Eastern Partnership countries), the agenda for the upcoming summit was set.
Representatives of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus for the first time participated in such events. Typically, civil society forums they did not indulge in their presence. This time, the head of the pan-European cooperation department of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, Andrei Bushilo, did not just participate, but even made a special statement.
It concerned the new European policy of Minsk, focused on rapprochement with the European Union. To the obvious pleasure of those who gathered, Andrei Bushilo noted that Belarusian officials have a common position on this issue. “We proceed from the task set by the head of state that we all need to develop relations with Europe,” stressed Bushilo.
Debt driven to Brussels?
The words of the diplomat, said in Tallinn last Thursday, literally the next day found their direct confirmation in Luxembourg. A Belarusian-European investment forum was held here. He was remembered by the meeting of the European Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and negotiations on the EU enlargement Johannes Hahn with the Prime Minister of Belarus Andrei Kobyakov.
Khan confirmed to Kobyakov his readiness to “begin expert work on the formation of the main elements of a comprehensive agreement on cooperation between Belarus and the European Union.” The air smelled of "new association." As an advance, the European Commissioner promised the Belarusian Prime Minister assistance in advancing the negotiations of Minsk with the International Monetary Fund.
Experts interpreted this promise as a hint to the Belarusian authorities that the European Union itself is not ready to give them money. Although it was the search for funds to support the economy of the republic that launched the “multi-vector” policy of Lukashenko to the European course. Russia responds to his appetites quite restrained. Often this causes public anger of the Belarusian president.
So it was, for example, this winter, when Lukashenko devoted most of his seven-hour press conference to cooling relations with Russia. There were many claims, almost all of them dealt with financial issues to one degree or another. The President of Belarus, in particular, complained about the refusal of the Russian government in granting loans and the “unreasonable demand” for the repayment of debt for oil supply.
In the Kremlin, criticism of Lukashenko provoked open irritation. The Belarusian president was reminded that in addition to loans ($ 6 billion from the Russian government and $ 2,5 billion through the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development) "from 2011 to 2015 years 18-23 million tons of oil were supplied to Belarusian partners annually. In total for this period the Russian budget did not receive $ 22,3 billion. All this is nothing but direct and indirect support of the union Belarusian state. ”
Alexander Lukashenko did not comment on the Kremlin press statement, and even more hit the “multi-vector” policy, which eventually returned him to the bosom of the Eastern Partnership. The reason for this reversal lies on the surface. The Belarusian economy is burdened with debt. In order to stay afloat, it needs new financial injections.
Belarusian officials do not like to discuss this topic. However, from time to time, it breaks into the pages of the media or on television. This happened on Wednesday, when, during the discussion on Tut.by in Minsk, First Deputy Finance Minister Maxim Yermolovich blurted out about the real state of the public debt of Belarus.
The financier is particularly concerned about the external debt of the republic. As of October 1, 2017, it amounted to 16,3 billion US dollars - historical maximum for Belarus. Since the beginning of the year, debt has increased by $ 2,7 billion, or 19%. Now, only $ 3,5 billion is required for its maintenance per year. The amount for the Belarusian economy is serious.
The Eastern Partnership will definitely not give such money. And Brussels does not hurry to disclose his wallet to Lukashenka. The European Union has another interest in Belarus. He already had a quite definite relation to the “partner countries”. First, he will try to use the market of the state for the sale of European products. Secondly, to expand the sphere of their political influence and together "be friends against neighbors."
What will be the main thing here, and what is secondary (in relation to Belarus), time will tell. Only, it seems, both options are obviously losing. Confirmation of this sad conclusion can be easily found in the open spaces of Ukraine and in the gardens of Moldova. Having torn off these countries from Eurasia, the European Union did not give them anything in return. Only provoked the outflow of the working-age population and created additional problems for the economy.
The Belarusian leaders, of course, see and understand this, but stubbornly follow the path of the countries in need. What motivates them? Probably, the financier Yermolovich opened the portal Tut.by not the whole truth, but only part of it. It is impossible to seriously consider the new European vector of Alexander Lukashenko as his reaction to the cold attitude of Russian colleagues. After all, the welfare of his country depends on this step of the Belarusian president - it’s not a stranger to us either ...