Updated at 17:58,12-04-2021

Euronest PA can hardly bring Belarus closer to Europe

Andrey Fyodaraw, BelaPAN

The EU-Neighborhood East Parliamentary Assembly (Euronest PA) working group on Belarus held a meeting on April 1 to discuss increased ties between Belarus and the EU. The Euronest PA can hardly help unfreeze EU-Belarus ties.

Assembly lacks powers

Developments in Ukraine might have had a strong effect on discussions within the group even if its agenda had nothing to do with it.

The Assembly proved unable not only to prevent an invasion of its member by Russia but also to condemn it.

At a recent meeting of the Euronest PA Bureau, Ukrainian MPs called for an emergency session of the Assembly, but the Armenian delegation suggested postponing the debate until fall because of European Parliament elections. The Armenian proposal was accepted.

Obviously, Armenian MPs sought to avoid an embarrassing discussion following their country’s support for Russia’s invasion of Crimea. They hope the crisis would be over by fall.

Even if the Euronest PA held an emergency session to adopt a resolution denouncing Russia, it would not make a difference because the Assembly does not have any powers and cannot make binding decisions.

In Ukraine’s shadow

The group’s meeting was attended by members of the Belarusian opposition. The European Parliament does not recognize Belarus’ House of Representatives as a legitimate legislature and did not invite its members to the discussion.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey had been invited but did not attend, sending an unnamed diplomat instead, said the press office of the United Civic Party (UCP). Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a Polish member of the European Parliament who chaired the meeting, said the diplomat had not been invited and was barred from the meeting.

A new window of opportunities for the improvement of relations between the European Union and Belarus may open soon, announced former presidential candidate Alyaksandr Milinkevich at the meeting.

"Such a constructive agenda has been set for the first time in many years. One cannot let the situation around Ukraine break it," said Milinkevich, leader of the Movement for Freedom. He warned against isolating Belarus for voting against a UN resolution affirming Ukraine’s territorial integrity and condemning the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

Other politicians called on the EU to be tough on the Belarusian regime, noting that it understands the language of strength only.

Meanwhile, it is unclear what else the EU can do for Belarus in principle. With focus now on Ukraine, Belarus has taken a backseat.

Obviously, all parties concerned should make an all-out effort to counter the current and possible future Russian aggression. Since Belarus is unlikely to join the drive, it would be unethical to offer any recommendations.

As far as Belarus is concerned, politicians should appeal to all partners not to recognize its possible occupation by Russia, if ever.

Some argue that recognition is not required for annexed territories unlike for regions that proclaim their independence like Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It may be true by the law. However, the United States’ refusal to recognize the incorporation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the Soviet Union was certainly of great significance for these countries’ movements for independence.