EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell said that the European Union considers the victory of Alexander Lukashenko in the elections illegitimate, but at the same time does not refuse to work with him.

“We do not recognize him as a legitimate president, just as we do not recognize Nicolas Maduro. From this point of view, Maduro and Lukashenko are in exactly the same situation. We do not accept that they were legitimately elected. However, whether we like it or not, they control the government and we must continue to work with them despite not recognizing their democratic legitimacy, ”Borrell said in an interview with El País.

He added that the EU wants to ensure that "Belarusians have the opportunity to freely express their opinion." At the same time, Borrell stressed that the current situation around Belarus cannot be compared with the Ukrainian crisis of 2014, since the geopolitical factor played an important role in the events in Ukraine.

“There was tension between European aspirations and the desire to enter into an alliance with Russia. Protesters carried European flags. There was a geopolitical dimension. The Belarusians don't argue now who is better - dad or mom. They simply demand a regime in which there will be freedoms and civil rights. There are no European flags on protests. And the EU also has no intention of turning Belarus into a second Ukraine, ”said the head of European diplomacy.

Borrell assured that the European Union will continue to support the values ​​of "freedom and democracy" in Belarus. He recalled the EU's decision to allocate € 53 million to the Belarusian civil society.

“We have financial resources, we have mobilized € 50 million to help the Belarusian society, we have political influence, but Belarus should not be a second Ukraine,” the diplomat said.

  • Josep Borrell
  • Reuters
  • © Virginia Mayo / Pool

At the same time, he stressed that Brussels should act in such a way that in the Russian Federation its actions are not perceived in the wrong key.

“We must advance political reform, avoiding, however, that all this looks like some kind of distorting factor, since this is how we can be perceived from the Russian side. Tensions between Europe and Russia were paid for by shooting, violence and the division of Ukrainian territory, which continues to this day, ”Borrell said.

Commenting on the relations between Russia and the European Union, Borrell stated that without the Russian Federation it is impossible to solve a number of complex international problems.

“On the one hand, we have sanctions against Russia, and on the other hand, we are in energy dependence on it, and in the case of some countries this dependence is very strong. For a Lithuanian and a Portuguese, the situation with Russia looks different. Russia is a participant in international politics, wishing to once again play the role of a power. It is not the only country experiencing the old imperial temptation. But, whether we like it or not, there are many problems - from the Arctic to Syria - that we must try to solve together with Russia, ”he said.

Supporting protesters

Let us remind you that the presidential elections were held in Belarus on August 9. According to the CEC, incumbent President Alexander Lukashenko won 80.1% of the vote, while his main rival Svetlana Tikhanovskaya got 10.12%.

The opposition did not recognize the voting results and took people to the streets. On the night of August 9-10, mass protests began in the country, which were accompanied by violence from both the demonstrators and the police.

On August 11, it became known that Tikhanovskaya left for Lithuania, where she established contact with the local government and held negotiations with representatives of a number of Western states, including Canada, Germany and the United States.

A few days after the elections, the protest rallies became peaceful. At the same time, Alyaksandr Lukashenka took his supporters out into the streets, announcing the facts of foreign interference in the country's affairs.

To discuss the events in Belarus in the EU on August 19, an emergency summit was convened in the format of a video conference. It was initiated by Poland and Lithuania.

Following the negotiations, it was announced that Europe does not recognize the election results and expresses support for the protesters. As the head of the European Council Charles Michel noted on August 19, Brussels is ready to "accompany the peaceful transition of power" in Belarus. He also called on Minsk to find a non-violent way out of the crisis and announced the EU's intention to impose sanctions against those who are “responsible for violence in the republic and falsification” of the voting results.

In turn, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU intends to allocate € 53 million to provide assistance to Belarus. € 2 million of this amount will go to victims of political repression, and € 1 million will go to support "civil society and independent media." The remaining € 50 million in Brussels want to spend on the fight against coronavirus and support for social services and business in Belarus.

Ursula von der Leyen stressed that Brussels intends to support Belarusians who stand for fundamental freedoms and democracy. Support for the protesters was also announced in Lithuania and Poland. Moreover, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki promised to arrange funding for the "independent" Belarusian media.

The leaders of the two most influential EU countries, Germany and France, also commented on the situation in Belarus.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the elections in Belarus dishonest and condemned the use of violence against the demonstrators. She called for the establishment of a dialogue between the Belarusian authorities and the opposition, while noting the inadmissibility of external interference in the affairs of the republic.

  • Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron during a press conference following the meeting at Fort Bregancon
  • AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron shares a similar point of view. He stated that the Ukrainian scenario should not be repeated in Belarus. At the same time, both Macron and Merkel advocated maintaining a dialogue with Russia on this issue.

In turn, US Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Bigan, on August 24, after meeting with Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in Vilnius, said that Washington "cannot and will not determine the course of events in Belarus."  

Unsuccessful attempt

Borrel's words about his intention to continue working with Lukashenka indicate that the EU at this stage has come to terms with the fact that the attempt to remove the Belarusian leader has failed. This point of view is shared by Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at Moscow State Pedagogical University.

“The European countries do not like Lukashenka, and they are doing everything possible to support the protests. But so far they have failed, and Borrell just officially admitted it. It must be understood that Lukashenka now has real power, and it is with him that they will work, ”he explained in an interview with RT.

According to experts, Europe is not ready to take radical steps and repeat the Ukrainian scenario in Belarus, because Brussels' support for the Euromaidan has led to the emergence of a hotbed of instability on the continent.

“The EU played a key role in the destruction of the legitimate power in Ukraine and ended up in a situation in which Europe has chaos and a zone of instability near its borders. Therefore, EU leaders, such as France and Germany, are still not ready to repeat the Ukrainian experience, ”Shapovalov said.

As analysts note, Washington does not intend to directly intervene in the situation in Belarus, as it did in Ukraine. This is evidenced by the words of Undersecretary of State Stephen Bigan. At the same time, the USA can influence the Belarusian events indirectly - by the hands of Poland and Lithuania, which are their closest allies in Europe. It is these countries that are taking the most active position in the Belarusian crisis, experts say.

“Warsaw and Vilnius will be the conductors of US interests in this matter. Poland and the Baltic states should be viewed as America's Trojan horse in the EU, ”says Shapovalov.

At the same time, other members of the European Union, including Paris and Berlin, are currently not ready to support the position of Poland and Lithuania and “throw all their efforts to overthrow the Belarusian authorities,” Shapovalov said. However, they will not stop the work of their “soft power”, as well as direct support of the Belarusian opposition, said Sergei Margulis, a RANEPA teacher.

“Support will continue through elements of soft power. And in the medium term, the EU intends to try to change the political regime in Belarus. But at the moment this will not happen, "the analyst said in an interview with RT.

  • Alexander Lukashenko speaks at a rally of his supporters
  • RIA News
  • © Victor Tolochko

At the same time, the most active in the use of "soft power" will be Poland and Lithuania, Margulis said.

“They have been supporting the opposition for many years. Student programs will continue, assistance in holding various forums and events in these countries. For example, the annual International Congress of Belarusian Researchers, which is held either in Poland or Lithuania. Opposition representatives will be there, ”the analyst said.

Experts assessed Borrell's statements about the need for dialogue with Russia positively. According to them, the European diplomat stated the obvious things.

“This is a logical and rational statement. The EU understands that Russia is not just an important economic partner, but a key player in Europe. Russia is the largest European country. Economically, politically and militarily, Moscow plays an extremely important role. And without a dialogue with her, it is simply impossible to resolve issues in Europe, especially when it comes to Belarus and the post-Soviet space as a whole, ”Shapovalov concluded.

In turn, Sergei Margulis pointed out that Russia and Belarus are very closely linked economically and politically. In this situation, the analyst says, the EU simply cannot ignore the position of the Russian Federation on the situation in this republic.

“Unlike Brussels, Moscow has much more influence on Belarus. First, Russia accounts for half of the total Belarusian trade turnover; Russia is a key investor in the Belarusian economy. In addition, Belarus is a member of both the Union State and the EAEU with the CSTO. The two countries are tightly integrated with each other, so Brussels admits that it will not be possible to resolve the Belarusian crisis without a dialogue with Moscow, ”the expert concluded.