I think I would give one of my toe nails to eavesdrop on certain behind-closed-doors meetings. Maybe even a toe. We rarely get VIP guests from Brussels. Just 18 months ago, I would have said we never get them. I wonder what is the accurate picture the Belarusian authorities paint for their distinguished guests?
In looking at EU travel/international relations arrangements, you can spot the difference: while we hosted EU commissioner Fuele on 8 and 9 July, Kiev next door hosted EU President Van Rompuy.
You can also see a difference in the way Belarusian TV presents the EU and Russia. Brussels is associated with “dialogue” – “it’s the beginning of a long process, but we are on the way to normalising our relations because the EU and Belarus are important economic partners.” Moscow is associated with “conflict” – “their imperialist mentality, their condescending approach to their closest ally is calling our brotherly ties into question.”
Our leader’s rhetoric addressing Mr Fuele front of the TV cameras speaks for itself.
“We won’t fall down, won’t crawl on our knees in front of anyone – you [EU] or Russia or America,” President Lukashenka said Friday. “We won’t be running around Europe or America or Russia, taking money from you,” he added, urging Brussels to “adhere to democratic values without double standards”.
Lukashenka noted that the EU wants take a long look at the upcoming presidential elections before making any fresh moves.
“On the one hand, it is right and objective – you and others want to know whom you will have to deal with, who will be president in Belarus. But I want to caution you against excessive hopes and expectations: Belarus will be taking its own route,” he said.
Decoding the diplomatic language, this means: We don’t need Paul the octopus to predict the outcome of the elections here, brother. So what are you waiting for?
Meanwhile, the opposition at a separate meeting urged Fuele to demand the release of all political prisoners and an end to repression of political adversaries. They were relieved to hear from Fuele that the EU and Russia will not “solve the Belarus issue” behind its back.
Pre-election temperature is rising in Minsk: political groups are dividing the financial resources, their members are changing places like amoebas in a warm pond. The authorities have passed a new Internet edict giving them the right to suspend websites. Not many know but that’s no surprise for them that an issue of an independent newspaper hasn’t found its way to newsstands, one activist got arrested, another was beaten up.
The Czech Republic’s EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy was relaxed and smily. He declined to divulge to journalists the details of his Lukashenka tete-a-tete. But he voiced hope of a “joint interim plan” to develop EU-Belarus ties, currently under negotiation.
He called Belarus the “best kept secret” in Europe.
Does it mean, that the EU worries about Belarus, wondering: “She loves me. She loves me not?” This is no secret. I’m afraid, it just changes every day. We are taking our own route after all!