Belarus Needs Help: Germany and Europe Lack Solidarity and Strategy for a Democratic Belarus
Analysis | The EU strives for strategic sovereignty and the capability to master global politics. The crisis in Belarus presents an opportunity for Brussels to contribute to stability in its eastern neighborhood. In order to support a democratic transfer of power in Minsk, however, the EU must enhance its engagement across five areas.
Since last summer Belarus, the EU's direct neighbor in the East, has seen the gravest political crisis since its independence three decades ago. Having been in power for nearly as long, Belarus’ autocratic ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka faces a nationwide democratic movement that demands his immediate resignation, free and fair elections and fundamental reforms. Clinging to power, Lukashenka categorically rejects these demands, using his security apparatus to brutally suppress critics, and relying on Russia for political, technical and financial support. Nonetheless, countless Belarusians continue to protest against Lukashenka's rule every day, the democratic opposition has formed politically, citizens constantly invent new and creative forms of social resistance, and society provides help to thousands of victims of state repressions. A stalemate has emerged, with the Lukashenka regime and a large part of society irreconcilably opposed, but with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage.
This development came as a surprise to many in Belarus and even more so to foreign observers. For years, Lukashenka's power seemed unshakable. If, within a few months, his rule started to wobble, this is the result of longer-term changes in the relationship between society and the state. Society in Belarus has modernized substantially over the past ten years. A clear Belarusian identity has emerged. Islands of free enterprise have emerged, especially in the IT sector. Mobility, networking and digitization have injected global ideas and discourses into the country, be it gender issues, environmental protection or technology. Civil society and citizen initiatives have mushroomed and the independent cultural scene has experienced a boom.