On the eve of the Eastern Partnership Summit, the first expert discussion "Belarus in cooperation with the European Sub-regional Organisations, Neighborhood Groups and Programs" was held as part of the Expert Environment discussions
"Expert Environment" is a series of discussions with the participation of Belarusian and foreign experts, analysts, authors of studies and specialists in the field of foreign policy, organized by the National Anti-Crisis Management to discuss the geopolitical choice of the Belarusian people.
Having stolen the votes, rights and freedoms of Belarusians in 2020, Lukashenka also stole from us the right to build a competent policy of good neighborliness, taking into account the national interests of Belarus. The geopolitical choice today is determined exclusively by the Lukashenka’s regime.
Excluding the people — the bearer of sovereignty — from participation in solving key issues of foreign policy, Lukashenka uncontrollably bargains with our sovereignty and puts it on the line in his political games.
In conditions when the "international relations" of the regime create a real threat of the loss of sovereignty and independence by Belarus, the issue of citizens' understanding of geopolitical processes is critically important. The Expert Environment discussion series is intended to build this understanding.
Within the framework of the first discussion "Belarus in cooperation with European sub-regional organisations, groups and good-neighborliness programs", experts and analysts, authors of studies and specialists in the field of foreign policy discussed the following issues:
— What is the Eastern Partnership and what bonuses did the participation in it bring to Belarus?
— What amount of funding are we talking about when mentioning Eastern Partnership projects?
— What is the likelihood of dismantling the Belarusian statehood?
- The Eastern Partnership is a geopolitical response to Russia’s external activity.
- 750 million euros within the framework of various projects of the Eastern Partnership is a lot of money. Loans on good terms were also of great importance, reaching an average of 500 million euros per year.
- The degree of confrontation between the West and the Kremlin will not diminish. As long as Lukashenka is in power and is supported by Putin, there is a real threat of the dismantling of the Belarusian statehood.
- Russian subsidies are used to maintain an ineffective economic model, which has created a kind of vicious circle for Belarus.
- After Lukashenka leaves, the new government of Belarus will have to rebuild a dialogue with the West, including within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
What is the Eastern Partnership and what bonuses did the participation in it bring to Belarus?
Andrey Egorov, Representative of the Coordination Council for Civil Society, Director of the Center for European Transformation:
The Eastern Partnership, in many ways, was the EU’s response to Russia’s aggressive policy in the region. This initiative has promoted and continues to promote profound transformations in the EU’s eastern neighboring countries and brought significant benefits for Belarus as well. Belarus and Azerbaijan were outsiders of the program, which was the result of the choice of their political regimes. Although, it is noteworthy that even with this level of relations, financial and infrastructural assistance from the Eastern Partnership was tangible for Belarus.
It is noteworthy that the infrastructure assistance from the Eastern Partnership was indeed very important. For example, the road infrastructure financing program, which includes financing of bridge repairs, showed that its termination led to the so-called "Bridgefall".
The economic framework for cooperation is set within the political framework of the Eastern Partnership.
How much funding are we talking about when talking about Eastern Partnership projects?
Andrey Kazakevich, Director of the Institute of Political Research "Political Sphere", Editor-in-chief of the journals "Political Sphere" and "Belarusian Political Science Review":
750 million euros within the framework of various Eastern Partnership projects that the Belarusian economy received is a lot of money. Loans on good terms were also of great importance. According to various estimates, they reached an average of 500 million euros per year.
Following the "bridgefall", we will face problems with the water supply infrastructure of the cities.
Funds for the development of small businesses, most likely, will also not go to Belarusian entrepreneurs.
Separately, it should be noted that the Belarusian science will suffer as a priority.
Will Belarusian statehood be dismantled?
Pavel Usov, Political analyst and columnist, Head of the Center for Political Analysis and Forecast:
It is extremely important for the democratic forces to create a clear plan for the geopolitical choice for Belarus. The Eastern Partnership in the form in which it exists now does not meet the challenges of the times.
Russia is pouring a lot of money into its imperial geopolitical projects: in the Donbass, for example, about $ 12 billion.
The degree of confrontation between the West and the Kremlin will not weaken, as evidenced by Moscow’s actual ultimatum on the inadmissibility of NATO expansion.
While Lukashenka is in power and is supported by Putin, the dismantling of the Belarusian statehood may take place, unfortunately, in practice it is already happening.
Is infrastructure assistance within the framework of the Eastern Partnership comparable to Russian energy subsidies?
Dmitry Bolkunets, Political scientist, expert in the field of Russian-Belarusian relations
The Eastern Partnership for Belarus, in my opinion, is still more a political track than an economic one.
Russian subsidies are used to maintain an ineffective economic model, which has created a kind of vicious circle for Belarus. And these subsidies, in my personal opinion, significantly exceed the financial resources allocated within the framework of the Eastern Partnership projects.
It seems to me that it is generally beneficial for Russia when some infrastructure projects are financed by the West. The example of Armenia confirms this.
Despite the current situation, Europe already has an instrument to support the Belarusian society within the framework of the Eastern Partnership. These are educational programs.
In fact, it turns out that the Russian economic model conflicts with the model proposed by the Eastern Partnership not only politically, but also economically?
Andrey Kazakevich: in principle, with a strong desire, these models can also be combined, but for this it is necessary to work. And take into account the fact that in democratic countries, at the stroke of a pen, no changes are made to the regulatory framework. Different way of thinking of Belarusian officials does not allow them to understand that it is necessary to work within the framework of procedures in order to combine the models.
How real is the threat of Belarus' incorporation in the foreseeable future?
Kamil Klysinski, Senior Research Fellow, Center for Oriental Studies (OSW)
After Lukashenka leaves, the new government of Belarus will have to rebuild a dialogue with the West, including within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
Today, in my opinion, Russia, oddly enough, is trying to economize on its foreign policy projects, even it is a little greedy. It follows from this that the incorporation or annexation of Belarus is impossible, since it would be too expensive for Russia.
The question also arises: what will happen to Lukashenka if Russia needs a thaw in relations with the West? Lukashenka, who is not welcome to shake hands, will greatly interfere with this process.
Next discussion of the Expert Environment:
"Integration processes within the Eurasian Economic Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Prospects for the development of Belarusian-Russian relations"Follow the discussion reports on our social networks with the hashtag #ЭкспертнаяСреда:
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