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Monday, August 08, 2005


EU may fund Belarus opposition

From The Scotsman:

THE European Union is set to provide cash for opposition parties in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

Western leaders fear that president Alexander Lukashenko, widely regarded as Europe's last dictator, will attempt to influence next year's presidential election in order to stop pro-Western or pro-reform candidates taking power.

EU diplomats are considering direct funding to allow Belarus's opposition parties to compete with the pro-government campaign. If approved, it would mark a major shift in EU policy towards promoting democracy.

It would also mark a significant ramping up of pressure on the authorities in Minsk, but would risk antagonising Moscow. Russia has a close relationship with Belarus and is still smarting over what it sees as Western interference in Ukraine, which is looking to join the EU and Nato.

A document prepared by the EU policy unit says that the "Lukashenko regime is becoming increasingly repressive", pointing to the harassment of the opposition and of lobbyists for reform, and asks whether "direct/indirect opposition support" should be considered.

Brussels is also considering visa restrictions on Belarussian officials and the freezing of some of the country's overseas assets.

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