Belarus is a prospective candidate for the membership in the European Union, a Czech economist and Social Democratic politician, Jan Mladek, said in an interview with Russia’s newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
According to Mladek, who served as the country’s Minister of Industry and Trade (2014-2017) and Minister of Agriculture (2005-2006), the EU expansion has in fact stopped and in the coming 8-10 years, there are little chances that other states will join the bloc soon. However, Belarus is the most prospective candidate.
The Czech politician noted that in his point of view, there is a questionable ‘ruling regime’ in Belarus, but the country has many strong sides that makes it a much more possible EU membership candidate than other states. These are the powerful industrial economy and a disciplined work force, which, Mladek says, could be easily integrated into the EU institutions.
As to Ukraine, Mladek said that it is not ready to fulfil political and economic obligations needed to become a real candidate for joining the EU. Furthermore, he said, the EU needs no more additional state with a developed agricultural industry. Moldova does have little chances to join the EU because of the same reason. Mladek also emphasized that he has always been a supporter of involving a workforce from Belarus if official channels for this are created.
The position of the Czech politician is another demonstration of the positive EU stance towards Belarus and its ruling regime in the current conditions. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is successfully exploiting the ‘neutral role’ of his country and the weakness of the official Moscow to develop the Belarusian economy and strengthen the Belarusian statehood. A position of Belarus towards the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine is the most widely-known example of this behavior. By its relatively pro-US stance in this conflict, the Lukashenko government attempts to secure its future and demonstrate that it could be a ‘reliable partner’ of the West despite the formal alliance with Russia.
Through these moves, Lukashenko widens opportunities of Belarus to enter the ‘phase of Eurointegration’ and cooperation with the US. In own turn, the EU understands that the Belarusian economy and workforce would become a useful source of resources for the top European economies (like Germany or France). Therefore, both the US and the EU prefer to contact with the Lukashenko government through the existing channels and employ ‘soft measures’ instead of conducting regime change efforts.
The policy of official Minsk is especially effective amid the existing problems inside Russia and a possible growth of instability after the end of President Putin’s second presidential term in 2024. Other factors that impact the policy employed by the Lukashenko government is the upcoming presidential election in the US in 2020 and possible political changes inside the European Union. This policy allows Lukashenko to maneuver in the period of instability.
There three groups of factors that influence the behavior of official Minsk on the international scene:
1. The 2020 presidential election in the United States. If Donald Trump secures his second term defeating the Washington establishment, the White House will continue employing its national-oriented economic and diplomatic strategy. In these conditions, a new ‘conservative’ alliance (Trump, Erdogan, Putin) interested in developing their national states and therefore their national economies may appear on the international scene. The ‘last European dictator’, Lukashenko, will find himself in line with this tendency.
The interesting fact is that the Lukashenko government may also gain some benefit from the victory of the Democrats in the US presidential election. Belarus has been for a long time named as a part of the Intermarium geopolitical project. The goal of this ‘geopolitical alliance’ involving Poland, Baltic states, Finland, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, and Romania is to create a ‘sanitary cordon’ on the western border of Russia and project influence of the Washington establishment in Europe. So, if the Russian influence declines, Belarus may get access to resources spent on this project.
2. The transition of power in Russia. Over the past year, there have been multiple signals showing that Russia may face a period of destabilization due to reactive political processes ongoing in the country. The main reason is the growing social tensions caused by the acute disproportion of the living standards and income within the population, and the social tension between the so-called ‘new aristocracy’ and the main Russian population. This negative tendency may turn into a political crisis during the 2021 Parliament election. If this does not happen, this crisis will become highly likely during the 2024 presidential election. Consequences of these developments are unclear. The crisis may lead to the real conservative turn in Russia that will lead to the strengthening of its statehood. On the other hand, the possible defeat of a national-oriented part of the elite will lead to the dismantlement of the gains of the previous decades and may lead to a dissolution of the Russian statehood.
3. Unstable period in the evolution of the European Union. One of the reasons of the current instability in the EU is the economic crisis – so-called ‘two-speed Europe’, the disproportion of economies of southern and northern European states. The migration crisis and a rapidly growing social economic pressure on EU nations also play own role. The steady collapse of this ‘European dream’ already led to the growth of Eurosceptic and conservative political movements. It is not likely that these tendencies will lead to the dissolution of the union. However, it is likely that they will shape the characteristics of the EU as the supernational political and economic union. The EU could overcome the crisis and become a new European superpower or make a step back becoming the trade and economic cooperation organization of the European nations. In both cases, Belarus will be a ‘useful partner’ of the European bloc.
Lukashenko’s sophisticated play is like the most effective option that the Belarusian government has in the current complicated situation on the international scene. This will remain actual at least until the 2020 presidential election in the US.
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