EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana (L) and Belarus Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov (R) shake hands in Minsk on
February 19, 2009
(AFP/ Getty Images)
Belarus’ relative isolation has not protected the country and its ruling elite from the impact of the global economic crisis and the Lukashenka regime is under pressure to reform. Russia has decreased Belarusian imports and refined oil exports to the EU are suffering from falling prices.
As the crisis hinders Lukashenka’s capacity of positioning the country as a buffer between Moscow and Europe, Belarus’s leader might make a radical shift towards Europe in the hope that Brussels decides not to renew sanctions on Belarus and instead incorporate the country into its Eastern Partnership.
Favourable conditions exist for the EU to try harder to prize Belarus away from Russian influence and as Ukraine falters, Brussels needs to shore up its soft power in the East and overpower Russia’s strategic incentives.