How the EU should respond to the persecution of the opposition in Belarus after the presidential elections on December 19? Margarita Balmaseda, a professor of Helsinki University and Harvard University, an expert on energy policy and corruption in post-Soviet space and in matters of foreign and domestic policy of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia believes that economic sanctions are not output.
Mrs. Balmaseda is the author of numerous books and articles, including Belarus: "Independent Belarus: Domestic Determinants, Regional Dynamics and Implications for the West" (2002), "Belarus: oil, gas, transit pipelines and Russian foreign policy" (2006 ). Now she is preparing to publish a book "The Politics of Energy Dependency: Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania Between Domestic Oligarchs and Russian Pressure, 1992-2010".
Maksimyuk: Today a lot of talk about how the EU should respond to the persecution of the opposition in Belarus after the presidential elections on 19 December. Mrs. Balmaseda, if you were a counselor, Ms. Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, what would you advise her to do against Belarus?
BalmasedaThe issue of sanctions against the European Union and Belarus already has a long history. Recall that these sanctions in one form or another, started in 1996, after the constitutional crisis in Belarus. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. And unfortunately, I can not say that economic sanctions would be a way out of this situation.
If you look at the history of these relations sober eye, it must be said that the possibility of the European Union to impose changes in Belarus with punitive sanctions — are limited. This applies specifically and economic sanctions, which are much more complex issue. As you know, I research energy issues. And you probably also know that the export of oil and oil products is 25% -35% of the total Belarusian exports.
Between 2006 and 2009, Belarus sold oil products amounting to 11.7 billion dollars, mainly in Western Europe. I am applying this information because to show that economic sanctions could have a very clear influence on Belarus, it is very clear. But why they have not entered into the past and why they are not a real possibility now?
The main reason is that such economic sanctions would inflict great damage to the whole population. Further, the state media in Belarus could provide these sanctions as the siege of the EU countries, thereby turning public opinion against the EU. And yet there is a danger that such sanctions would only have pushed Belarus closer to Russia.
Why do I say this? I say this to emphasize that the theory of economic sanctions could be a very powerful and effective means of influence. But I do not think that from a political point of view it would be a good idea. Unfortunately, I believe that the only way such an impact is continued pressure on Belarus, together with suggestions of gingerbread, that is, attempts to angazhirovat Belarusian regime. This is a very sad confession and it is very grim situation, but I do not think that the EU has the possibility to change the situation in Belarus solely through sanctions. There should be sanctions should be pressure to return the visa ban, but should bear some opportunity for the regime to continue its dialogue with the EU.
I say this with a heavy heart, because I also know that this kind of policy has not given good results. That is, it yielded good results before 8:00 pm on December 19, and then everything fell apart.
I think the pressure on the regime will be most effective only when the Belarusian leadership to make clear that, for example, continued investment in Belarus and the continuation of loans will clearly depend on his behavior. But again, I stress that I do not believe that this can be done only by unilateral sanctions. There should be some dialogue, because otherwise, in my opinion, the only mode further move away from the EU.
Maksimyuk: Let's assume for the moment a theoretical situation in which the European Union has decided to impose economic sanctions against Belarus. What specific steps Brussels could do against Minsk?
Balmaseda: I'm not an expert in EU law, and therefore I can not guarantee that all of what I say, maybe even a legislative or political point of view. But Brussels could try to convince the members of the European Union, so that they at the national
level imposed a ban on investment in Belarus. He could freeze all economic cooperation projects or grants that are predictable in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. He could officially push for international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, that they stopped lending to Belarus.
Since there are many measures which may, at least theoretically. Bypassing the question of the effectiveness of sanctions, which I have already said, we must also raise the question of political expediency. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the EU is far from complete agreement, what he should do with Belarus. So even from a political point of view it would be very difficult to reach a common position on economic sanctions against Belarus.
Maksimyuk: I want to put to you one theoretical question, in connection with the export of Belarusian oil products. In your opinion, if the European Union imposed a ban on the export of these products by Belarus, or it might paralyze the Belarusian economy in general, or destroy it?
BalmasedaI would not say that it could destroy, but it would have a very big impact on the Belarusian economy. Export naftapradukatav — one of the most important sources of foreign exchange for the Belarusian state in recent years. So what the consequences would be enormous. But they also would depend on the state of the Belarusian-Russian relations, on how they could develop further. Belarus' ability to receive such huge revenues from oil exports in 2004-2009. was a combination of several favorable circumstances — part of a high European demand for oil products, in part to high world oil prices and a very special part of trading conditions by Russia, Belarus are allowed to have a profitable business. In 2010, we observed a different pattern, because the profitability of this business, from the attention to the new rules was limited. Now we have a new situation that is valuable agreements between Belarus and Russia on December 10, but we still do not know what rate of return would be in this business in 2011.
Maksimyuk: Do you believe in the existence of economic sanctions that hit on the leadership of the country and do not affect the ordinary citizen? Personally for me — it is a logical contradiction. I remember the American economic
sanctions against Poland's General Wojciech Jaruzelski in 1980. I do not think that General Jaruzelski suffered personally from those sanctions. But I and millions of others in Poland — yes, we have suffered. In fact, Ronald Reagan once chastised us for what we lost Jaruzelski, so to speak. Do not think you can punish Lukashenko, only punishing Belarusians even stronger than they were sentenced to the couple?
Balmaseda: It is possible. This is one reason why economic sanctions — a very problematic west. This is one of the steps which the EU does not want to use to the fullest. I thin
k you're right. Preliminary measures that were aimed at the ruling elite had a very limited impact.
In short, the EU and the West in general now face a very difficult question — as it is now to act against Belarus. I hope that any dialogue will still be restored. It is a conclusion that is given is very difficult, because we all know what happens after December 19. But I do not see any possibility that some sanctions have acquired a strong influence on Minsk.
Do not forget, however, that the European Union and Belarus demands, because, firstly, the European Union has become a very important market for Belarusian exports. Secondly, Belarus needs the EU as a counterweight to Russia. Despite the agreement of December 10, the Belarusian-Russian relations remain highly problematic. So it seems to me that after a period of strong statements that we have heard over the last three weeks, we will see a little bit of flexibility on the part of the Belarusian regime, and I hope that the European Union will be able to use it.