An art­icle by the chair­man of the asso­ci­ation Human Rights in Belarus, Hans-Georg Wieck, on Belarus with­in the european con­text, it’s rela­tions to the European Uni­on and the Coun­cil of Europe.

I. Intro­duc­tion

1. Geo­graph­ic­ally, Belarus is loc­ated in the centre of what is called “Europe”. Europe includes geo­graph­ic­ally Rus­sia up to the Urals.
Polit­ic­ally, Belarus – at this junc­ture – is an out­sider in and for the European Insti­tu­tions (European Uni­on, Coun­cil of Europe, OSCE and NATO). Because of a num­ber of polit­ic­al and eco­nom­ic but also geo­pol­it­ic­al reas­ons a num­ber of suc­cessor states of the Soviet Uni­on seek closer and more struc­tured rela­tions with the European Uni­on (Ukraine, Mol­dova, Belarus and the three south Caucasi­an states Armenia, Azerbaijan and Geor­gia).

2. Until recently, the European Uni­on fol­lowed in its rela­tions with these coun­tries the polit­ic­al guidelines of its “New European Neigh­bour­hood” adop­ted in 2004 with the object­ive in mind to improve bor­der-cross­ing trade and traffic and gen­er­al polit­ic­al rela­tions. Belarus was excluded for lack of pro­gress in demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion, which was the bone of con­ten­tion between the European Uni­on and Belarus ever since the con­sti­tu­tion­al crisis and coup d’état under­taken by Alex­an­der Lukashen­ko in Novem­ber 1996 to be respon­ded to by a num­ber of sanc­tions adop­ted by the European Uni­on, the Coun­cil of Europe, as well as the USA and a num­ber of oth­er coun­tries, while the new polit­ic­al struc­ture was recog­nized by Moscow and oth­er CIS coun­tries.
The new approach, adop­ted by the EU Sum­mit in Prague on May 7, envis­ages close cooper­a­tion with Ukraine, Mol­dova, Belarus, Geor­gia, Azerbaijan and Armenia with the object­ive o closely link­ing these coun­tries to the polit­ic­al struc­tures and the EU mar­ket. Part o the mul­ti­lat­er­al pro­cess which includes our plat­forms and a num­ber of flag­ship pro­jects is dir­ec­ted at revital­ising the demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion pro­cess with­in these coun­tries that got stuck for dif­fer­ent reas­on in a num­ber of these coun­tries.

3. An OSCE mis­sion was installed in Decem­ber 1997 with the man­date to assist in the devel­op­ment of demo­crat­ic insti­tu­tions and to mon­it­or the applic­a­tion of European Human Rights stand­ards in Belarus. The OSCE Sum­mit, held in Novem­ber 1999 in Istan­bul adop­ted a Declar­a­tion on the trans­form­a­tion pro­cess in East Europe and wel­comed – with the sig­na­tures of Pres­id­ent Yeltsin and Pres­id­ent Lukashen­ko – in para­graph 22 of the Sum­mit declar­a­tion the nego­ti­ations – star­ted a few weeks ago between rep­res­ent­at­ives of Lukashen­ko and the oppos­i­tion parties – for a lim­ited demo­crat­ic reform in the fields of

  • Par­lia­ment­ary rights,
  • free and fair elec­tion (Elect­or­al code) and
  • on the access of the polit­ic­al parties of the oppos­i­tion to the state run mass media, as well as
  • regard­ing the dis­con­tinu­ation of admin­is­trat­ive and crim­in­al pro­sec­u­tion of mem­bers of the Polit­ic­al oppos­i­tion.

The OSCE mis­sion was to be the facil­it­at­or of these nego­ti­ations.

4. The ques­tion arises, why on earth the European Uni­on and for that mat­ter the OSCE and in addi­tion the Coun­cil of Europe do “inter­fere” in the intern­al devel­op­ments of Belarus and oth­er East European coun­tries?
The answer is not dif­fi­cult:

The his­tor­ic event of the end of the Cold War in 1990 has to be recalled. After more than forty years of mil­it­ary and ideo­lo­gic­al con­front­a­tion of the Soviet Uni­on and its Allies on the one hand and the USA and its European Allies on the oth­er hand the cold war could be ended peace­fully– as a res­ult of far reach­ing changes of the Soviet For­eign and Secur­ity policy dur­ing the years of Gorbachev, Sec­ret­ary Gen­er­al of the Soviet Com­mun­ist Party in the Soviet Uni­on (1985–1991).

The Pol­ish Solid­ar­nocz Move­ment pre­vailed in Poland, so did the reformers in Hun­gary and in Ger­many (GDR). Ger­many was reunited (Octo­ber 3, 1990) after the unex­pec­ted fall of the Wall in Novem­ber 1989 in Ber­lin. It was the object­ive of the Soviet Uni­on to seek close cooper­a­tion with the USA and the European Uni­on and its mem­ber states in order to mod­ern­ize the Soviet eco­nomy and the polit­ic­al fab­ric in order to bring about a com­pet­it­ive eco­nomy on the glob­al mar­kets. The Soviet lead­er­ship had real­ized already earli­er that it had lost the ideo­lo­gic­al con­flict in Cent­ral Europe. The upris­ings in East Ger­many 1953, in Hun­gary 1958, in Czechoslov­akia in 1968 and the rising of anti-com­mun­ist struc­tures – Solid­ar­nocz – in Poland had more than proven this fact. The mono­pole of the Com­mun­ist Party was aban­doned in the Soviet Uni­on in 1988.
The fun­da­ment­al changes were trans­lated into two import­ant Treat­ies between East and West:

  • The Treaty con­cluded between the mem­bers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organ­isa­tion (NATO) and of the Warsaw Pact (WP) envis­aged the estab­lish­ment of ceil­ings for the armed forces in Europe (man­power, arm­a­ment – tanks, artil­lery and air­craft) between the Urals and the Atlantic. It is called CFE (Con­ven­tion­al Forces in Europe) and con­tin­ues to be val­id, includ­ing the mon­it­or­ing pro­ced­ures adop­ted. How­ever the treaty needs rat­i­fic­a­tion for an adap­ted ver­sion of the treaty signed in 1999 as a con­sequence of the dis­sol­u­tion of the Soviet Uni­on. We hope that pending issues will be resolved soon.
  • The second doc­u­ment adop­ted on the occa­sion of the Par­is Sum­mit 1990 as the Charter of Par­is signed by the Heads of State and Gov­ern­ment of the coun­tries par­ti­cip­at­ing in the CSCE pro­cess (now OSCE) and that is called the Charter of Par­is call­ing for a European House built on the basis of Com­mon Val­ues on indi­vidu­al human rights (free­dom of belief, of speech, of reunion,) plur­al­ist­ic demo­crat­ic state struc­tures in par­tic­u­lar fair and free elec­tions, sep­ar­a­tion of power (legis­lat­ive, exec­ut­ive, judi­ciary), and mar­ket eco­nom­ies. The Coun­cil of Europe, the guard­i­an of demo­crat­ic val­ues in Europe since 1947 , was to advise com­mun­ist gov­ern­ments for the trans­form­a­tion pro­cess, so was the Organ­isa­tion ODHIR set up by the CSCE (OSCE) in Warsaw to provide train­ing and advis­ory capa­cit­ies for fair and free elec­tions and related mat­ters. Gorbachev signed the Charter on behalf of the Soviet Uni­on.

5. The trans­form­a­tion pro­cess ini­ti­ated in Par­is had how­ever to cope with polit­ic­al devel­op­ments in the Soviet Uni­on, which lead to its implo­sion in Decem­ber 1991. Now the respons­ib­il­ity for the immense task of polit­ic­al, eco­nom­ic and social trans­form­a­tion fell upon the nation­al insti­tu­tions of the fif­teen suc­cessor states that pledged to under­take these tasks when they were recog­nized as inde­pend­ent states by the inter­na­tion­al organ­isa­tions and the mem­bers of NATO and the EU – early in 1992. Par­tic­u­lar import­ance was attached to the com­mit­ment not to change fron­ti­ers by force. That prin­ciple was also accep­ted by the suc­cessor states of the Yugoslav Fed­er­a­tion. Note, how­ever, the spe­cial situ­ation of Kosovo that was recog­nized on the basis of a medi­ation report by an out­stand­ing rep­res­ent­at­ive of the UN, and there­fore has no bear­ing on the assess­ment of the Rus­si­an act of recog­ni­tion for the inde­pend­ence of Abkhazia and South Osse­tia, provinces that were declared to con­tin­ue to con­sti­tute integ­ral parts of Geor­gia by UN Secur­ity Coun­cil Res­ol­u­tion on April 18, 2009. There­fore the Rus­si­an decision regard­ing the two Geor­gi­an provinces alerts and sens­it­ises many neigh­bour­ing coun­tries of Rus­sia and pushes these coun­tries into the struc­tures of the West (EU, NATO). 6. It can­not be over­looked that the col­lapse of the Soviet Uni­on and the loss of inter­na­tion­al prestige and strength have giv­en rise in Rus­sia to new nation­al­ism that seeks to recov­er lost ground on the inter­na­tion­al stage and in the geo­graph­ic­al neigh­bour­hood. The New Rus­sia has no desire to imple­ment the reform pro­gramme adop­ted in Par­is in Novem­ber 1990. It has no interest in pro­long­ing the Part­ner­ship and Cooper­a­tion treaty with the European Uni­on agreed upon in 1997, and now under con­sid­er­a­tion for renew­al or replace­ment by a new agree­ment. Nego­ti­ations take place, but agree­ment is not in sight. Med­ve­dev and Putin have set a dif­fer­ent agenda: In mid­sum­mer 2008 Med­ve­dev pro­claimed a new for­eign policy doc­trine insist­ing among oth­ers on the right of Rus­sia to pro­tect its own cit­izen abroad (Abchasia, South Osse­tia) and to inter­vene in neigh­bour­ing coun­tries for stra­tegic and secur­ity reas­ons – a claim that was real­ized few months later in Geor­gia. Med­ve­dev stated that he expec­ted sup­port and respect for this policy from Russia’s friends and part­ners abroad. Until now this appeal did not gain inter­na­tion­al recog­ni­tion, not to speak o sup­port. Irre­spect­ive of inter­woven eco­nom­ic interests and sig­ni­fic­ant trade volumes can­not ignore the grow­ing polit­ic­al dis­tance between the European Uni­on and its mem­bers on the one hand and the Rus­si­an Fed­er­a­tion.

7. To have changed bor­ders by force and to have imposed an inter­na­tion­al status on provinces of anoth­er coun­try con­sti­tutes a viol­a­tion of inter­na­tion­al law and cre­ates enorm­ous actu­al and poten­tial ten­sion in Europe. It runs counter the order estab­lished in Europe by way of the EU – based on the Rome Treaty of 1957, which offers a European per­spect­ive to each and every coun­try in Europe will­ing to trans­form its intern­al struc­ture accord­ing to estab­lished European stand­ards. The East­ern Part­ner­ship concept con­sti­tutes the EU response to the inter­na­tion­al related For­eign policy doc­trines of the New Rus­sia. The new pro­gram will be oper­ated in par­al­lel with the devel­op­ment of the polit­ic­al rela­tion­ship with Rus­sia which has turned out to be more dif­fi­cult than ever since the break­down of the Soviet Uni­on.

II. The EU and Belarus

1. First of all the import­ant role the European Uni­on and of its mem­ber states has to be recalled played nowadays in Europe and bey­ond its fron­ti­ers. The Uni­on was brought about –with US sup­port – in 1950 with the goal in mind to over­come the nation­al power rivalry in Europe for suprem­acy and hege­mony region­ally and glob­ally. Key to the new vis­ion was the under­stand­ing reached by Kon­rad Ade­nauer and Charles de Gaulle – both in their sev­en­ties – that the two nations must put aside and behind them their power rivalry and that the two nations needed to be the found­a­tions for a New Europe – a United Europe.

This United Europe grew from the ori­gin­al six coun­tries until the end of the Cold war up to 15 coun­tries and after the end of the divi­sion in Europe to 27 mem­ber states. There are more sates to accede to the European Uni­on in due course. Inter­ested coun­tries have to reform their social and eco­nom­ic insti­tu­tions in order to meet the cri­ter­ia for mem­ber­ship. Mem­ber­ship in the Uni­on: that means Free­dom, Secur­ity, and a chance for a well being shared with the oth­er mem­ber states. The EU is a kind of Con­fed­er­a­tion with a single mar­ket and a com­mon cur­rency (EURO) for – until now – fif­teen of the 27 mem­ber states .It has com­mon fron­ti­ers to the rest of the world. It has adop­ted prin­ciples for a com­mon for­eign, defence and secur­ity policy. Accord­ing to the Rome Treaty of 1957 oth­er European coun­tries can accede to the Uni­on provided they have estab­lished demo­crat­ic gov­ern­ment, respect for indi­vidu­al human rights, an inde­pend­ent judi­ciary that means the sep­ar­a­tion of power (exec­ut­ive, legis­lat­ive and judi­ciary) and a socially rooted mar­ket eco­nomy. Also the Uni­on must be cap­able of absorb­ing anoth­er coun­try as a new mem­ber state.

2. Most observ­ers and ana­lysts point out that Belarus had some dif­fi­culties in 1992 to seek sep­ar­a­tion from Rus­sia after the col­lapse of the Soviet Uni­on. They may be right in a cer­tain way, namely the way in which yesterday’s nomen­clature saw things after the dis­sol­u­tion of the Soviet Uni­on in Viskuli in Decem­ber 1991. How­ever, since 1988 Sen­on Pash­jak, the archae­olo­gist and mem­ber of the nation­al oppos­i­tion to the Soviet Uni­on had estab­lished the move­ment “Resur­rec­tion” (adrash­den­je) that turned in the Belarus­i­an Pop­u­lar Front BPF seek­ing inde­pend­ence from the Soviet Uni­on on the basis of the short-lived Repub­lic of Belarus estab­lished in March 1918 and later dis­solved by the Soviet Uni­on. Sen­on Pas­njak pur­sued a strongly anti Rus­si­an policy, and could unite more than 150.000 cit­izens behind his flag between 1988 and 1990.

3. In Ger­many, know­ledge is not widely spread about the his­tory of the Belarus­i­an nation. It is not sur­pris­ing that Ger­man spe­cial­ists, when the coun­try turned inde­pend­ent in 1918 trans­lated Belarus into “White Russia”/”Weißrussland”. It should have been trans­lated into “Weißrutheni­en”. Because this is what it was called earli­er in his­tory at a time when Ukraine was called Rutheni­um – of which the ori­gin or the deriv­at­ive is “Rus”. The ter­minus “Rus­sia” came into use after the estab­lish­ment of the Rus­si­an Ortho­dox Church and Czar­ist Empire in Moscow dur­ing the six­teenth cen­tury.

4. The trans­form­a­tion pro­cess in East Europe, ini­ti­ated by the Charter of Par­is turned out to be a dif­fi­cult one. The Soviet sys­tem had estab­lished a dif­fer­ent value sys­tem for soci­ety and the indi­vidu­al with­in the col­lect­ive, the social­ist soci­ety. It was dom­in­ated by the eco­nom­ic and polit­ic­al down­turn exper­i­enced every where, and it was lack­ing sup­port at the basis. Defend­ers of European val­ues had been dis­crim­in­ated against dur­ing Soviet times. In pub­lic per­cep­tion the eco­nom­ic decline, which was of course the con­sequence of the break­down of the Soviet Uni­on and the Soviet eco­nomy, which had been dom­in­ated by the mil­it­ary-indus­tri­al com­plex, but was asso­ci­ated with the newly pro­claimed and sup­por­ted demo­crat­ic order. This false con­nota­tion gave rise to the demand for a “strong state” – which Belarus got through demo­crat­ic elec­tion in the per­son of Alex­an­der Lukashen­ko in 1994 on the basis of a rather demo­crat­ic con­sti­tu­tion, and Rus­sia in the per­son of Vladi­mir Putin a few years later namely in Decem­ber 1999.

5. It is not unfair to say, that both – the EU and Belarus – did not care par­tic­u­larly much about each oth­er in the early nineties. But that holds true also for the atti­tude and interest of the EU for most of the oth­er Newly Inde­pend­ent States in East Europe, except for Rus­sia itself and in a lim­ited way for Ukraine and of course for the Balt­ic States that had been occu­pied by the Soviet Uni­on in 1940. Even demo­crat­ic­ally ori­ented forces in the Belarus favoured a policy of equal dis­tance to Rus­sia and the European dimen­sion. Only the new, but old nomen­clature favoured closest pos­sible cooper­a­tion with Rus­sia. In 1992, Belarus became a mem­ber of the CIS secur­ity treaty. How­ever, at least in 1995 a Part­ner­ship and Cooper­a­tion Agree­ment with the EU was signed.

This slow pro­cess of rap­proche­ment came to a stand­still and was con­ver­ted into mutu­al dis­trust as a res­ult of Lukashenko’s coup d’état in Novem­ber 1996 impos­ing on the coun­try an author­it­ari­an ver­sion of the hitherto demo­crat­ic con­sti­tu­tion. The EU and the Coun­cil of Europe adop­ted a num­ber of sanc­tions and put the “Part­ner­ship and Cooper­a­tion Agree­ment” on hold. In 2006 addi­tion­al sanc­tions were imposed in con­nec­tion with fraud­u­lent Pres­id­en­tial Elec­tion (Travel restric­tions for Pres­id­ent and addi­tion­al func­tion­ar­ies). These sanc­tions were lif­ted tem­por­ar­ily in Novem­ber 2008.

The European Uni­on and the Coun­cil of Europe sup­por­ted the efforts of the OSCE Mis­sion to bring about mean­ing­ful nego­ti­ations between gov­ern­ment and oppos­i­tion for a lim­ited demo­crat­ic reform. High­light was a cor­res­pond­ing decision by the OSCE Sum­mit Con­fer­ence in Istan­bul in Novem­ber 1999. How­ever this agree­ment was dis­avowed by Lukashen­ko shortly after­wards, and in spite of man­i­fold efforts of the European Insti­tu­tions the series of manip­u­lated elec­tions for Pres­id­ent and Par­lia­ment could not be stopped – until now.

6. While the EU dis­covered – belatedly – the need to devel­op an act­ive polit­ic­al and eco­nom­ic rela­tion­ship with oth­er post Soviet coun­tries such as Ukraine and the South Caucasi­an coun­tries, not­ably after the acces­sion of most of the Cent­ral European coun­tries to the EU in 2004, Belarus could not bene­fit from the “European Neigh­bour­hood Policy” estab­lished in 2004. Still, in 2006 the European Uni­on linked any open­ing in this regard to the ful­fil­ment of import­ant steps of demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion (see “EU Non Paper on Belarus Novem­ber 2006 “What the European Uni­on could bring to Belarus”). The demands included the release of polit­ic­al pris­on­ers, free and fair elec­tions, improved frame­work con­di­tions for non-gov­ern­ment­al organ­iz­a­tions, invest­ig­a­tion into the fate of dis­ap­peared per­sons; improve­ment of work­ers right.

7. In the mean­time rela­tions between Rus­sia and Belarus turned sour. Moscow reduced sub­ven­tions (priv­ileged prices for oil and gas). Rus­sia is seek­ing a com­mon mon­et­ary sys­tem for the two coun­tries and the sale of eco­nom­ic assets to Rus­si­an com­pan­ies. In con­nec­tion with the Geor­gi­an crisis Minsk refused how­ever under­stand­ing for and cooper­a­tion with Rus­sia, not­ably regard­ing the recog­ni­tion of the two Geor­gi­an provinces that had been declared inde­pend­ent by Moscow. A trade war raged for quite some time.

8. The inter­na­tion­al fin­ance and eco­nom­ic crisis hit Belarus equally hard and its indebted­ness to Rus­sia as well as to the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­et­ary Fund increased sub­stan­tially without relief from with­in the coun­try in sight. Under these cir­cum­stances Lukashen­ko could not hope to find easy solu­tions for his domest­ic eco­nom­ic and fin­an­cial prob­lems by way of bene­fi­cial deals with third world coun­try mar­kets or with China alone.

9. With­in the European Uni­on a change of policy was propag­ated on the basis of good and not so good reas­ons. It was felt import­ant to improve rela­tions – even in the absence of demo­crat­ic pro­gress in Belarus – some argued, how­ever that mean­ing­ful changes con­cern­ing the lack­ing demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion had taken place. Such unfoun­ded and unjus­ti­fied atti­tudes and pos­i­tions can do only harm to your own trust­wor­thi­ness and do dam­age to the oppos­i­tion with­in the coun­try. Both such tend­en­cies should be avoided.

III. EU East­ern Part­ner­ship

1. Heads of State and Gov­ern­ments adop­ted on the occa­sion of the Prague EU sum­mit on May 7, 2009 – togeth­er with rep­res­ent­at­ives of the six East European part­ner coun­tries – the pro­gramme “East­ern Part­ner­ship”, which will be admin­istered from with­in the European Com­mis­sion., but envis­ages as well the involve­ment of the European Coun­cil and Min­is­teri­al meet­ings as well as meet­ings of Heads of State and Gov­ern­ments of all coun­tries par­ti­cip­at­ing in the Pro­gram.

As stated in the intro­duct­ory part, the pro­gram is based on com­mit­ments to the prin­ciples of inter­na­tion­al law and to fun­da­ment­al val­ues, includ­ing demo­cracy, the rule of law and the respect for human rights and fun­da­ment­al freedoms, as well as to mar­ket eco­nomy, sus­tain­able devel­op­ment and good gov­ernance. (see Charter of Par­is Novem­ber 1990). How­ever, par­ti­cip­a­tion is not con­di­tion­al regard­ing achieve­ments in the demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion pro­cess of the coun­try. That means, this is a stra­tegic alli­ance aimed at help­ing these coun­tries to be attached to the EU by way of asso­ci­ation agree­ments (para 2: polit­ic­al asso­ci­ation and eco­nom­ic integ­ra­tion) – with the mem­ber­ship ques­tion to be open ended – not excluded as was the case with the earli­er EU Neigh­bour­hood pro­gram.

2. In par­al­lel – on the basis of EU Com­mis­sion sug­ges­tion – the concept for a “Civil Soci­ety For­um” was adop­ted, which is now in pre­par­a­tion on the basis of NGO pro­pos­als and sug­ges­tions – to be launched in Novem­ber 2009 in Brus­sels.

3. In the end the Geor­gi­an war and not­ably the recog­ni­tion of the two Geor­gi­an provinces Abkhazia and South Osse­tia by Moscow as inde­pend­ent states moved Lukashen­ko and the EU closer towards each oth­er.

In light of the Medi­ter­ranean Uni­on with­in the EU that was pushed for­ward by the French Pres­id­ent some time ago, Sweden and Poland decided to ini­ti­ate the estab­lish­ment – with­in the struc­ture of exist­ing European insti­tu­tion – the concept of an East­ern Part­ner­ship – going much bey­ond the nar­rowly defined object­ives of the European Neigh­bour­hood policy.

4. Chal­lenged with its own per­cep­tion of a value based Europe by Russia’s neo-imper­i­al ambi­tions, the European Uni­on decided to push for­ward the concept of East­ern Part­ner­ship and to include all six coun­tries – irre­spect­ive of their demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion – and declared its inten­tion to con­clude with each of these six coun­tries asso­ci­ation agree­ments – in due course. Also a series of pro­jects and com­mon plat­forms will be installed in order to pro­mote the demo­crat­ic and eco­nom­ic trans­form­a­tion in these coun­tries – not only at the top o state struc­tures but also at the grass root o the coun­tries.

5. A closer look at the prin­cip­al doc­u­ment – adop­ted by the Prague Sum­mit – reveals a wide range of activ­it­ies that will be reviewed annu­ally by Min­is­ters and every second year by a Sum­mit con­fer­ence.

Provided it will be sup­por­ted polit­ic­ally in a strong and per­sist­ent way by the mem­ber states, the new part­ner states and by the European Insti­tu­tions at large the pro­ject can lead to an enlarge­ment o the European Uni­on in the course o the next dec­ades. How­ever the suc­cess o this new concept can­not be con­sidered a for­gone con­clu­sion.

(1). The activ­it­ies of East­ern Part­ner­ship are to be developed in par­al­lel with bilat­er­al pro­grams of the EU with third states

(2). The Polit­ic­al Asso­ci­ation and eco­nom­ic integ­ra­tion – object­ives of the East­ern Part­ner­ship – has to be seen as com­ple­ment­ary to the assist­ance rendered to the six East European coun­tries by oth­er organ­isa­tions. Con­flict res­ol­u­tion and Region­al cooper­a­tion are con­sidered as very import­ant com­pon­ents o the new part­ner­ship.

(3). East­er Part­ner­ship will encour­age reform pro­cesses, good gov­ernance and human rights

(4). The co-oper­a­tion of the European uni­on with these coun­tries an a bilat­er­al and a mul­ti­lat­er­al level will bring about favour­able con­di­tions for Asso­ci­ation agree­ments

(5). Free trade areas, open mar­kets con­sti­tute import­ant goals o the cooper­a­tion

(6). The EU will devel­op com­pre­hens­ive Insti­tu­tion Build­ing Pro­grams – indi­vidu­ally for each one of the par­ti­cip­at­ing coun­tries

(7). Sup­port for bor­der-cross­ing mobil­ity of cit­izen will be brought about by Visa lib­er­al­isa­tion.

(8). Energy issues will play a very import­ant role in the pro­cess o deep­en­ing the rela­tion­ship and co-oper­a­tion.

(9). The European Part­ner­ship will be centered on the pro­jects or Mul­ti­lat­er­al Cooper­a­tion (joint decisions of the EU and the Part­ner

(10). Meet­ings of Head of State every second year, For­eign Min­is­ters every year – and high level meet­ings

(11). There will be four plat­forms on

  • Demo­cracy, Good gov­ernance and sta­bil­ity
  • Eco­nom­ic integ­ra­tion and con­ver­gence with EU sec­tor­al policies
  • Energy secur­ity
  • Con­tacts between people

(12). June 2009 ini­tial meet­ings of the plat­forms – meet­ings twice a year – there will be sup­port pan­els

(13) In addi­tion the European Part­ner­ship estab­lished a num­ber of FLAGSHIP ini­ti­at­ives – such as

  • Integ­rated Bor­der cross­ing admin­is­tra­tion
  • Small and Medi­um sized enter­prise –Facil­it­ies (KMU)
  • Sup­port for region­al elec­tri­city mar­kets
  • Energy effi­ciency and renew­able energy
  • Devel­op­ment of a south­ern energy chan­nel
  • Cooper­a­tion in cases of nat­ur­al or human made cata­strophes

(14) Inter­ac­tion was ini­ti­ated with oth­er ini­ti­at­ives, such as Black Sea Syn­ergy

(15). Par­ti­cip­a­tion of European Insti­tu­tions.
Par­lia­ment­ari­ans were invited to devel­op forms of cooper­a­tion. The estab­lish­ment of a CIVIL SOCIETY FORUM of East­ern Part­ner­ship was decided upon. There will be a need or agreed pro­ced­ures or the trans­mis­sion of views by the NGO sec­tor to offi­cial meet­ings – on the basis of an observ­er status that should be set up in accord­ance with estab­lished pro­ced­ures with­in the UN fam­ily of inter­na­tion­al organ­iz­a­tions.

(16). Fund­ing (600 Mio. € for 2009–2013.)

(17). Private-Pub­lic Own­er­ship pro­jects

(18). EIB (European Invest­ment Bank) and EBRD (European Bank for Recon­struc­tion and Devel­op­ment) were invited to expand their activ­it­ies in this region

(19). Pub­lic Sup­port should be sought with­in the European Uni­on and with­in the six new part­ner­ship states

(20). The European Coun­cil of the European Uni­on will pro­mote the imple­ment­a­tion of the Pro­ject

(21). Closest pos­sible cooper­a­tion was pledged by the Sum­mit Con­fer­ence to make the Pro­gram a suc­cess.

In the mean­time the pre­par­at­ory work for the first ses­sion of the Civil Soci­ety For­um takes up speed. It is to take place in Novem­ber 2009. There is a need to make sure that it is not or gov­ern­ments to determ­ine which NGO can take part in the For­um.

On May 6, 2009, there was already an inform­al Civil Soci­ety For­um Meet­ing in Prague.

The main con­cern of the NGOs is related the ques­tion how to com­mu­nic­ate to the gov­ern­ment­al plat­forms and to gov­ern­ments at home. (Ref­er­ence: VN-Observ­er-Status for NGOs at ses­sions of UN Com­mis­sions and Con­fer­ences.)

IV. The Coun­cil of Europe and Belarus

In the after­math of the European cata­strophe 1939–1945 the need for new ini­ti­at­ives was more than evid­ent in order to bring about the recon­struc­tion of the con­tin­ent and for new polit­ic­al strategies to pre­vent the re-occur­rence of such cata­strophes like WW I and II. Sir Win­ston Churchill urged – in his fam­ous Zürich speech of Septem­ber 19, 1946 – the estab­lish­ment of a European Uni­on on the European con­tin­ent, mean­ing to say with the exclu­sion of Great Bri­tain. Such a concept how­ever was not going to work. Great Bri­tain needed to be a form­al part of the Uni­on, accept­ing the same rules for the con­duct of affairs in Europe as oth­ers would have to do. So, Great Bri­tain joined the Coun­cil of Europe when estab­lished in 1949. It was the first European struc­ture in the polit­ic­al arena of Post War Europe.
Accord­ing to Art­icle 1 of its Stat­ute the Coun­cil is to bring about closer asso­ci­ation among the mem­ber states. The Coun­cil com­prises now all coun­tries in Europe, with the sole excep­tion of Belarus that had enjoyed a spe­cial guest status from 1992 until of 1997 (lift­ing of the spe­cial guest status as a con­sequence of the Lukashen­ko coup d’état in Novem­ber 1996).

The European Coun­cil con­sists of

  • the Min­is­teri­al Com­mit­tee at the level of For­eign Min­is­ters,
  • the Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly (318 mem­bers and 318 deputy mem­bers) and
  • the Con­gress of Com­munit­ies and Regions.

The Coun­cil sees to fur­ther the strength­en­ing of the Human Rights situ­ation in mem­ber states, of par­lia­ment­ary demo­cracy as well as a sense of European unity and of cul­tur­al iden­tity in diversity.

After the end of the Cold War and the adop­tion of the Charta of Par­is in Novem­ber 1990, the Coun­cil of Europe – the guard­i­an of demo­crat­ic and oth­er pub­lic val­ues in Europe – offered also to Belarus assist­ance and advice on mat­ters of demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion.

The Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly of the Coun­cil of Europe gran­ted Spe­cial Guest Status to Belarus as early as 16 Septem­ber 1992 (state inde­pend­ence recog­nised early in 1992 by the inter­na­tion­al com­munity). In Octo­ber 1993, Belarus signed the European Cul­tur­al Con­ven­tion. In Septem­ber 1995 Belarus was also invited to accede to the Frame­work Con­ven­tion for the Pro­tec­tion of Nation­al Minor­it­ies.

The Coun­cil of Europe ad hoc-Com­mit­tee on Elec­tions observed the elec­tions for the Belarus­i­an Par­lia­ment in 1995. The Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly appoin­ted two emin­ent law­yers to report about the trans­form­a­tion of the leg­al sys­tem of Belarus. The report was rather pos­it­ive about devel­op­ments in Belarus.

After the con­ven­ing of the 13th Supreme Soviet in Belarus early 1996, the “Inter-min­is­teri­al Coun­cil on Cooper­a­tion between Belarus and the Coun­cil” achieved work­ing capa­city.

How­ever, at the same time con­cern was grow­ing because of the mount­ing signs of dis­reg­ard of Pres­id­ent Lukashen­ko for the rule of law and in par­tic­u­lar regard­ing rul­ings of the Con­sti­tu­tion­al court as well as for the inde­pend­ence of the print media and radio sta­tions. These con­cerns reached their cli­max after the coup d’état in Novem­ber 1996 (ref­er­en­dum) and the con­sequences there­of, namely the demoli­tion of the demo­crat­ic con­sti­tu­tion and its replace­ment by an author­it­ari­an con­sti­tu­tion. The new situ­ation was recog­nized by the Rus­si­an Fed­er­a­tion and oth­er CIS-coun­tries.

A few days after the coup d’état, the Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly of the Coun­cil of Europe con­demned the acts of the Belarus­i­an Pres­id­ent and called for a round table meet­ing of rep­res­ent­at­ives of inter­ested parties and insti­tu­tions, to provide an oppor­tun­ity for a pro­duct­ive dia­logue and a more con­sen­su­al approach to reform of the con­sti­tu­tion. Vari­ous inter­na­tion­al ini­ti­at­ives failed in their effort to restore cooper­a­tion between gov­ern­ment and oppos­i­tion and re-estab­lish demo­crat­ic rule in the coun­try.

In Janu­ary 1947, the of Spe­cial Guest status of the Belarus­i­an par­lia­ment was sus­pen­ded. The Coun­cil dir­ec­ted its future activ­it­ies towards sup­port­ing civil soci­ety and the func­tion­ing of the inde­pend­ent media.

The Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly con­tin­ued to invite rep­res­ent­at­ives from the Belarus­i­an Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly and from the oppos­i­tion to attend the Assembly’s bian­nu­al ses­sions in an inform­al man­ner. Thus, con­tact could be main­tained inform­ally.

In addi­tion to the rejec­tion of the return to non-demo­crat­ic author­it­ari­an gov­ern­ment in Belarus, the Coun­cil of Europe also con­tin­ued to cri­ti­cize the con­tin­ued applic­a­tion of the death sen­tence in Belarus.

In 2008, in view of the changed inter­na­tion­al situ­ation in Europe, which is char­ac­ter­ised by grow­ing author­it­ari­an­ism in Rus­sia, ini­ti­at­ives were launched with­in the Coun­cil of Europe to recon­sider the frozen rela­tions with Belarus, which is the only coun­try in Europe not to be a mem­ber of the Coun­cil of Europe

The report of the Polit­ic­al Com­mit­tee sug­ges­ted the res­tor­a­tion of the spe­cial guest status of Belarus with the Coun­cil of Europe and to provide at the same time for the oppos­i­tion to be invited to the Semi-Annu­al Ses­sions of the Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly. The Coun­cil even estab­lished already in early June 2009 an inform­a­tion con­tact point in Minsk (on the premises of the State Uni­ver­sity).

How­ever, in the end the recom­mend­a­tion of the Polit­ic­al Coun­cil was adop­ted by the Par­lia­ment­ary Assembly on June 26, 2009 with a con­di­tion – not only because of the lack of any sub­stant­ive pro­gress in the demo­crat­ic trans­form­a­tion of the coun­try, but also because of the con­tinu­ation of the valid­ity and applic­a­tion of cap­it­al pun­ish­ment. Par­tic­u­lar atten­tion was drawn to fun­da­ment­al defi­cien­cies in regard of the Elect­or­al Code, the free­dom of the Media and regard­ing the exer­cise of polit­ic­al rights of the Cit­izens – free­dom of speech, of assembly and belief So, as o now, Belarus was not yet grated the status o a spe­cial guest – as of now.

V. Con­clu­sion

1. The end of the Cold War gave rise to enorm­ous changes in the polit­ic­al land­scape of Europe. The prin­ciples on which the European Uni­on was estab­lished turned out to offer attract­ive per­spect­ives for nations states emer­ging from Soviet dom­in­a­tion and seek­ing to secure their exist­ence.

2. How­ever, Rus­sia is seek­ing to re-emerge as an inde­pend­ent European, if not glob­al power that is not to be bound by the rules developed with­in and by the European Uni­on. It seeks a region­al status of pre­dom­in­ance on its own ground rules. Coun­tries affected by this claim will seek closest pos­sible rela­tions with the European Uni­on in order to escape the fate of a new satel­lite status under Rus­si­an rule.

3. Lukashen­ko finds him­self in a dilemma: He seeks con­tin­ued close cooper­a­tion with Rus­sia with priv­ileged eco­nom­ic ties, how­ever avoid­ing sub­mis­sion to the will of Rus­sia by main­tain­ing or devel­op­ing bey­ond the scope avail­able right now firmer and more pro­duct­ive ties with the European Uni­on and its mem­ber. The out­come is uncer­tain.

The spec­trum offered by the newly adop­ted East­ern Part­ner­ship is impress­ive. But will it be imple­men­ted – yes, provided a strong polit­ic­al will of the European Uni­on pushes the imple­ment­a­tion for­ward. It was a bad sign that a num­ber of influ­en­tial Heads of State and Gov­ern­ment, such as Great Bri­tain, France, Italy and Spain did not join the Heads of State and Gov­ern­ment from oth­er EU-mem­ber states to sign the doc­u­ment in Prague on May 7, 2009

The concept of East­ern Part­ner­ship is a very good and ambi­tious one – so are the risks of fail­ure.

The paper basis upon a lec­ture held by Mr. Wieck in Bad Lieben­zell in August 2009.

Categories: Analysis