PACE Rapporteur Says Lukashenka Counting on Europe Being Soft
Estonian MP Andres Herkel, the rapporteur on Belarus for the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, says the EU must levy harsher sanctions on Minsk.
Herkel said President Alexander Lukashenka is betting that Europe will spare the rod and that Russia will come to his assistance.
Either way, Lukashenka's hands are increasingly tied, the IRL MP said - with the economy weak, his options for retaining his iron grip on the country are limited.
"If he wants credit from the West, he will have to release the political prisoners and start doing Europe's bidding. This would mean loss of political power as he cannot remain in power in an even slightly more democratic environment. And a step toward the West could be seen as betrayal of Russian interests, which would be followed by punitive action from the Kremlin," Herkel told uudised.err.ee from Oslo, where he will speak at a conference today.
"A loan from Russia is more likely but this would mean major Russian influence in privatization of state enterprises and lead to the end of Lukashenka's economic power. As many oligarchs would still be subject to visa sanctions from Europe, this would mean that they would also feel betrayed by Lukashenka, which would mean they have no further use of him," he said.
"The biggest mistake Europe can now make is soften its attitude," Herkel said, noting that the upcoming meeting of the EU's foreign ministers will be important in this regard.