Relations between the EU and Belarus have greatly deteriorated since the accession to power of A. Lukashenko in 1996, to be now almost frozen. Few signs of improvement are visible because:
- there is no clear and unified European strategy vis-à-vis Belarus. The importance of Russia in the Belarusian political climate is greatly underestimated by the European Union;
- Belarusian civil society is virtually nonexistent and the Belarusian population is not accustomed to democratic norms at work in the European Union.
Fluctuating relations for 20 years
Since 2002, President Lukashenko and his family are subject to visa bans in the European Union. Penalties have been strengthened because of the succession of elections marred by fraud and increasing violations of the human rights in Belarus.
The European Union, however, continued to support the Belarus through aid programs and cross-border cooperation, with emphasis on aid to education, the development of civil society and independent media in the country.
No specific agreement regulating trade relations have been concluded between the European Union and Belarus. Trade between Belarus and some eastern member of the European Union (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland) have developed since the enlargement of the European Union in 2004.
Eastern Partnership: toward a thaw?
In 2009, under the leadership of the Czech Presidency of the Council, the European Union proposed to Belarus political and economic cooperation within the "Eastern Partnership" in the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy. This proposal is ambitious because the main objective is to gradually remove sanctions against Belarusian officials, to establish a genuine free trade area and increase energy cooperation.
However, since its implementation, the EaP is seen only in Belarus as a way to increase business opportunities and facilitate mobility to Europe. For his part, President Lukashenko continues to lead the country with an iron fist and has initiated any reform political or economic background.
Today, the European Union is trying somehow to promote the democratization of Belarus through the Eastern Partnership. But the Belarusian regime plays on its cultural, political and economic strong ties with Russia to hold on power, to the detriment of the socio-economic development of its people.
- Out of Schengen. Perspective of post Soviet world, Wroclaw, 20 April 2012
- EU-Belarus-Russia: Now and Future, Gdansk, 15 September 2011