Updated at 13:35,15-07-2024

Lukashenka to visit Eastern Partnership summit in Riga?

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Belarus wants to be represented at an Eastern Partnership summit, which is scheduled for May in Riga, at the highest level.

It was said by Juris Poikans, a Latvian diplomat in charge of the EU's Eastern Partnership policy, Nasha Niva writes with a link to EUobserver.

He hinted at to the possible presence of Lukashenaka at the summit. According to him, "the contacts now between the EU and Belarus have become more intensive” compared to two years ago.

EUobserver also writes that Belarus can make the first steps to a visa-free regime with the EU if political prisoners are released by the Eastern Partnership summit.

Latvian foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics last week said there are some "new openings" with Belarus and that there is a prospect of starting talks on the visa-free regime with the EU. He said that starting talks on visa liberalisation would "also address civil liberties concerns we have".

Andrejs Pildegovics, state secretary in the Latvian foreign ministry, confirms that the release of the remaining political prisoners is key to a positive decision. “We will not review our stance on political prisoners. They have to be freed, three remain behind bars at this moment [Viasna human rights centre names six persons as political prisoners – Nasha Niva]. We continue to pressure Belarus on their liberation and the same goes for the treatment of minorities," Pildegovics said.

“Hopefully we can see some progress by May. On the EU-level we had a long 20 years of zero progress - it’s worse than hibernation,” he added.

He noted that the months following Russia’s assault on Ukraine, Belarus has become increasingly interested in better relations with the EU, especially on economic co-operation.