Protests across Belarus sparked by the country’s deteriorating economic situation are being met with studied indifference from the EU.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has become Europe’s ultimate deal maker, by trying to keep his options open with the EU while not letting Russia take him for granted.
Dialogue between Brussels and Minsk has intensified, but the ongoing rapprochement does not represent a sufficiently strategic or comprehensive policy.
To the EU’s detriment, its policy toward its Eastern neighbors is neither creating an arc of stability nor encouraging democracy.
If the EU wants a reliable partner in Belarus, the country must be transformed into a more democratic state. Only the Belarusian people can achieve this transformation.
Despite its release of political prisoners, don’t expect Belarus to cuddle up to the EU.
Belarus is attempting to normalize its relations with the West. The EU could help—but first, it must understand the country and its regime better.
The EU needs to realize that its neighborhood policy is a political not a technical tool, operating in a politicized environment where major conflicts take place.
The EU needs to remold its support for fundamental political reform in Eastern Partnership partner states—and use this as a firmer base from which to assuage tensions with Russia.
Western policy on Belarus should be both principled and capable of adapting to slowly changing realities on the ground—before polarization gets the better of the country.