A minor demonstration took place on Thursday in Brussels against the rule of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko. Belarus is part of the EU-supported Eastern Partnership and has been ruled by Lukashenko since 1994 when he was elected as president for the first time.
The protesters called for freedom to political prisoners in Belarus and for EU to intervene against what it considers the repression in the country which has been described as the “last dictatorship in Europe”. In 2016, the EU decided to lift most of its sanctions against Belarus, including a travelling ban on Lukashenko and other officials, despite concerns about democracy and human rights in the country.
Last May, the foreign ministers of the six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) were invited to Brussels to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Partnership that aims at reforming the countries and bringing them closer to EU. Because of internal divergencies, the event ended without any joint declaration.
In her conclusions, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, highlighted the achievements of the Eastern Partnership and described it as a success story. “Over the years, the Eastern Partnership has proved to be an efficient, resilient, tailored and dynamic framework and a solid foundation to further deepen cooperation.”
Asked to comment on EU-Belarus relations, a spokesperson for the External European Action Service (EEAS) referred the Brussels Times to its factsheet on Belarus. According to the factsheet, there has been progress in EU-Belarus relations over the past three years since the EU lifted its restrictive measures against the regime.
“The annual EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue provides a forum for discussion on the human rights situation in Belarus and joint steps to be taken in this area. The EU remains committed to cooperate with Belarus to enhance democratic governance and develop institutions responsive to citizens’ needs,” says the fact sheet.
In figures, the EU’s assistance to Belarus under the European Neighbourhood Instrument amounted to €110 million during 2014 – 2019. Trade relations between the EU and Belarus have also increased.
The Brussels Times