Belarus Between Round Table and Rapid Reaction Force - External Relations

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Belarus Between Round Table and Rapid Reaction Force

Werner Schulz

In Growing Fear of a Perilous Autumn, Lukashenko Seems Willing to Use any Means


A round table for
Belarus? A wonderful idea. Who wouldn’t like to see the estate of an Eastern dictator be set in order at history’s most famous piece of furniture? But the rounds for hope are nonexistent when the suggestion comes from Alexander Lukashenko, the despot in power for the last 17 years.

Since first becoming a political institution, the round table has symbolised the approach of bringing conflicting interest groups together to participate as equal partners in a dialogue and to identify solutions that all participants can support. Who would claim to seriously believe that this is truly Lukashenko’s goal?
 

Who would moderate such a dialogue, and who should take part? The Belarusian opposition, whose leading figures are in jail or have fled the country?
Russia or the EU? No one could believe this proposal was sincere. It is more likely an attempt to ring in another round of the “see-saw policy” between Russia and the EU, a favourite method of the Belarus head of state to safeguard his own power and spoils, as the smirking third player at the table.

The air is getting thin up around Lukashenko, once an ordinary kolkhoz director. He began his battle for survival long since.
Raging and ever less predictable, he has struck fear in the hearts of many, not least his own people. What might Lukashenko yet do in an attempt to control the simmering discontent and avoid economic ruin and the forced sale of assets?

Lukashenko’s motivation is revealed by his most recent proposal to create a rapid reaction force to prevent coups d’état within the CSTO, the post-Soviet military alliance. Although Lukashenko, unlike his close friend Gaddafi, does not yet have armed rebels to fear, there is a growing dread in
Eastern Europe of catching the revolution virus from Arab countries. Recent military exercises undertaken by the alliance to practice dealing with violent conflicts reveal this just as clearly as do statements by leading politicians within the alliance.

Nobody knows whether it will be a matter of weeks, months or even years before the Lukashenko era is a thing of the past. It feels, at least, as though we have already entered the aftermath of that period. The Belarusian opposition would be well advised to put
  old intrigues to rest and forge strong alliances. Only united will it succeed in creating new approaches and developing a serious alternative to the authoritarian social system in Belarus.

Europe
will play its part in helping Belarusian civil society along this path. A lively exchange about the issue of how and under what conditions assistance can best be provided is already underway with representatives of that civil society and within the European institutions.

However, we also seek the involvement of other important actors. Although the chairs for the Belarusian parliamentarians remained empty, members of the parliaments of the other Eastern Neighbourhood countries and of the European Parliament addressed the political situation in Belarus at the first working meeting of EURONEST on 14/15 September 2011.

We must, too, call on
Russia to live up to its responsibility, for one thing is certain: without Russia, there will be no change of course in Belarus, in any direction. I spoke about this in Warsaw on 19/20 September 2011 with our Russian colleagues on the EU Russia Parliamentary Cooperation Committee. The primary mutual concern must be the prevention of an escalation of violence, another wave of mass arrests and bloodshed.

Europe
should be more courageous in providing more vocal and more passionate assurance of its solidarity and support. At issue is no more and no less than sending a clear signal that the Belarusian people can count on Europe’s support in dealing with the current situation. 



Werner Schulz
was born in 1950 in Zwickau. He studied food chemistry and technology at the Humbolt University, Berlin. In 1974 he became an assistant lecturer at the Humbolt but was dismissed without notice in 1980 for protesting about the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. From 1968 he was active in various opposition groups in the GDR. In 1989, he was one of the founders of Neues Forum. In 1990 he was successful in the first free elections to the Volkskammer. From October 1990 to October 2005, Schulz was a Member of the Bundestag for Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, for whom he acted as spokesman, parliamentary leader and economic spokesman. Since June 2009 he has been a Member of the European Parliament.

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