On Friday, the commissary for the EU foreign policy and security, Javier Solana, phoned the Byelorussian foreign minister Sergei Martynov and invited him to Luxemburg where on 13 October the council of foreign ministers of the EU countries is to be held. This information was given to a Novaya Gazeta correspondent by an official from the entourage of the head of the diplomatic department of the EU.
In Luxemburg Mr. Martynov will also meet with the standing chair of the EU Council, the French foreign minister Bernard Couchner and the European Commissary for foreign relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner. Unlike Lukashenko, Martynov is not placed on the black list of those banned to get visa to the EU, so the existing formality is observed.
In the middle of September the EU ministerial Council made relations with Belarus, including the ban put on entry for 40 Byelorussian top officials, to be conditional with observance of democratic norms during the parliament elections of 28 September. According to the OSCE mission, the norms were not observed. Nonetheless, Brussels is making a step towards Minsk.
According to the official above, “of course, the elections did not go the way we would like it to”, but there are positive signals: the political prisoners have been released and this time the police did not disperse the opposition meeting on the election night.
It seems that the whole matter was also influenced by the August’s Russia-Georgia war, after which the signals for closer relations between Brussels and Minsk got clearer. The Europeans, who in 2006 deprived the Byelorussian top officials from any cooperation with the United Europe, now put the lid on their own plans about Byelorussian democracy, while President Lukashenko, in his turn, gives to understand that he is willing for compromises and accepting the extended hand. In the EU Poland and Lithuania play the main lobbyists for the current harmonization with Belarus. According to foreign ministers of those two countries, boycotting of Minsk by the EU does not leave Lukashenko any choice except friendship with Russia, from which he might be not very complimentary. On the other hand, they say in the Brussels’s diplomatic circles that one should be aware that positive signals by Lukashenko for Europe might be just part of his bargaining with Moscow.