David J. Kramer, Irina Krasovskaya
he European Union finds itself in an awkward position at the moment: hoping that an invited guest finds reason to stay away. Last week, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, acting on behalf of the EU, invited Aleksandr Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, to a May 7 summit in Prague to formally launch the EU’s Eastern Partnership with six eastern neighbors: Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, and Belarus. Even if Lukashenko, often described as Europe’s last dictator, declines the invitation and sends someone in his stead, the invitation represents Lukashenko’s wholly undeserved return to the international stage, which is a serious setback for the promotion of political liberalization and human rights in Belarus.
In a recently released report, the U.S. State Department notes that the Belarusian government’s human rights record last year “remained very poor” with “frequent serious abuses” against NGOs, political parties, and opposition activists. The government has yet to account for politically motivated disappearances, including the late husband of one of the authors of this article. Lukashenko has “consolidated his power over all institutions and undermined the rule of law through authoritarian means, manipulated elections, and arbitrary decrees,” the report says.
Excerpt reproduced with permission from Foreign Policy, www.foreignpolicy.com. Copyright 2009 Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive LLC. Read the full article at[http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=4886]