Over the last six years, Belarus’ foreign policy has evolved significantly in response to Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Compared to Ukraine’s political turmoil and subsequent war in Donbas, neighbouring Belarus seemed like a kingdom of stability. Minsk was quick to adopt a neutral role and put itself forward to host the main venue for negotiation on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The upcoming presidential elections in Belarus are likely to mark a critical (dis)juncture for the country in general and, in particular, for its relations with Russia. The two allies have exhausted the model of bilateral relations that served them well in the past and need to open a new chapter in their relationship. What this chapter might look like and how long and bumpy the road to it is going to be will depend to a large extent on the outcomes of this election.
On August 9, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will seek his sixth term in office. He has ruled over the country for a quarter-century, relying on a mix of repression, information control, and Russian subsidies. Past elections were foregone conclusions. But this one is different: the coronavirus epidemic has exposed Lukashenka’s incompetence and animated Belarusian civil society. No matter how the votes are counted, it will be remembered as an important moment in Belarus’s political history.
In this year’s election, Belarus’ strongman Aliaksandr Lukashenka is facing genuine resistance to his rule and, it seems, has made several mistakes in dealing with his opponents - bad election timing, counter-productive violence and stirring up another source of tension with Russia. Although the state’s autocratic system has hindered electoral competition in Belarus since 1994, it is widely believed that Lukashenka would have won all previous elections even if votes had been counted fairly.
The 9 August presidential elections in Belarus represent an unprecedented challenge to the power of Alexander Lukashenko. But as the autocrat is expected to achieve re-election in one way or another, little is likely to change as concerns the dilemma the EU (and the US) face in dealing with him.
On 9 August, Aleksandr Lukashenko, often dubbed “Europe’s last dictator” by Western media, will seek re-election as president of Belarus for the sixth time in a row. This time, however, his regime is facing genuine popular resistance at a time when is also experiencing tension with its longstanding international ally, Russia, and economic problems related also to the COVID-19 pandemic. All this contributes to making these elections different. But could the times be ripe for a democratization process in the country?
The EU and India share already strong trade and investment ties, with bilateral trade in goods and services exceeding EUR 100 billion; the EU accounts for 22% of India’s FDI inflows. Significant Indian investments have also taken place in the EU. The EU-India Summit on 15 July further emphasized the strength of bilateral ties setting out an ambitious Roadmap up to 2025 for our strategic partnership.
There is something deeply and comprehensively flawed in the EU’s relations with its Mediterranean neighbourhood. After more than 50 years of European cooperation, agreements, declarations and plans with the southern Mediterranean and the Arab countries, only one new democratic state (Tunisia) has emerged. A benevolent observer would say this democratisation process was not initiated as a result of the EU’s resolute support for a population demanding freedom from an authoritarian regime.
Summits are occasions to provide a sense of direction and the 15th India-EU summit to be held in virtual mode on 15th July is no exception. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are fully aware that their meeting is taking place in unusual times when both India and EU are facing new challenges.
After the massive defeat of the Libyan National Army (LNA) at the hands of Operation Burkan Al-Ghadab (Volcano of Rage) - which supports the internationally recognized Government of Accord (GNA) - the new frontline is just west of Sirte, a city 370 km southeast of Tripoli and 350 km southwest of Benghazi, strategically located at the entrance to Libya’s Oil Crescent.
Chinese officials have been repeatedly calling for closer cooperation with Europe, but the era of Covid-19 has made China-EU relations sour to an unprecedented low level since the two formally established diplomatic relations, 45 years ago.
“Serbia isn’t a democracy anymore”. This will be the most important assessment that will follow the vote to renew the parliament in Belgrade on 21st June. The downgrade from democracy to “hybrid regime” was certified by the last report issued by Freedom House that confirmed the decline of the Serbian democracy in the last 10 years.