Taurillon: What has happened in Belarus since the presidential election of last year?
Jérôme Buchler for Paris-Minsk: Only a few weeks after the last presidential poll in Belarus, the international pressure – generated primarily by media – dropped substantially. One should not underestimate the direct impact of this relaxation of attention on the way in which Minsk treats its dissidents and in first line, the militants of the political opposition, who have to quickly relearn how to cope with the administrative intimidations of all kinds and the round trips in and out of prison.
At the same time, the country also found itself in trouble and has to make a strong stance vis-à-vis the big Russian neighbour, notably under the pressure inherent in the negotiations on the price of Russian gas.
These events contributed to the reinforcement of the climate of mistrust, which very largely dominates from now on. The Byelorussians live alone against all. It is at least the feeling which the government endeavours to maintain.
Taurillon: How do you try to act to allow bringing democracy in Belarus?
Jérôme Buchler: History enjoys recalling us that revolution is exported badly. In Paris-Minsk, one keeps oneself well of saying to the Byelorussians for whom to vote and personally, I have great difficulty to locate the exact site of the border between a democracy and a dictatorship. What scandalizes us, they are these grave and chronic neglects concerning the most fundamental rights in Belarus, where acts as natural as to move, give its opinion in a newspaper and to have access to free information are still not assets.
We thus try to give echo internationally to events already little publicised in Belarus. The task is hard and we do not hide that we encounter many difficulties to get new contacts on the spot. The fear is omnipresent. Despite everything, admirable people join us, and we put a point of confidentiality so that this collaboration does not endanger them in their country.
Finally we remain persuaded that it is necessary to encourage especially the cultural initiatives. These projects launch the most solid bridges between Europe and Belarus, because they are based on the human one. The festival “BelProjet” is a beautiful illustration.
Taurillon: What do you think of the Pan-European action of Young European Federalist “Give the people of Belarus a voice”?
Jérôme Buchler: The Young European Federalists have all the reasons to feel concerned by what occurs in Belarus today. The project to which you refer to drew all our attention, and we encouraged our members to take part in it!
Taurillon: The European Union does not have a common diplomacy or foreign policy at the moment. Would an ever closer Europe perform better in applying pressure on the current power structures in Belarus?
Jérôme Buchler: We have noted a renewed interest of the European Union with respect to the Belarus file for a few years, at least through the multiplication of the official press releases and support posted for the great personalities of the political opposition. That is unfortunately insufficient. There is a need for something more concrete than that; we need more projects which address the Belarus people itself. Strong signals are needed. Let us not give credit to the arguments of Alexander Lukashenka, let us not isolate the Byelorussians. Finally, on the diplomatic line, one has indeed the right to expect a stronger, clearer voice from the European Union.
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