President, European Youth Forum, former Secretary General of JEF Europe
The country has been completely overlooked by the world after the collapse of the Eastern block and it was not until the last EU Enlargement in 2004, when Belarus suddenly became ‘our’ neighbour that this country slowly made it on the EU agenda.
A lot of hopes were put into last year’s March presidential elections and after the successful democratic revolutions in Georgia (Rose revolution in winter 2003/04) and Ukraine (Orange revolution in winter 2004/05) there was a wave of optimism that something similar might happen in Belarus.
Some of our contributors were following the developments prior, during and after these highly anticipated Presidential elections, which ended with an overwhelming victory for Mr. Lukashenko. It seems that he learned the lessons from the previously mentioned democratic revolutions and how to suppress them better than his democratic opposition on how to seize their chance.
However, Belarus is neither Ukraine nor Georgia. It is far less important strategically to either the US or powerful European states, while the EU’s role in such cases is repeatedly proving disappointing and unsatisfactory.
This winter’s dispute between Belarus and it’s eternal ally Russia over oil and gas prices disrupted gas supply to EU states and briefly offered a glimmer of hope that things might change but soon that bubble burst and the fact revealed that in the end energy policy and the needed stability for providing oil and gas to Europe has priority over human rights and democracy.
However, there are a lot of people, especially among the young, who disagree with this and ready to do something about it.
So, let us take a look back on what happened in Belarus and outside it prior to the March 2006 elections, some civil society actions in support of the democratic forces in Belarus (e.g JEF’s Europe wide action Give the Citizens of Belarus a voice!) and the analysis of events that followed (mass arrests of any type of opposition to the regime). Moreover, we can offer two very personal and very different experiences of the situation in Belarus.
Enjoy the read.