By Ruhor Adtapenya
29 November 2013
Eastern Partnership Discussion Panel (Vilnius)
On 28-29 November Vilnius hosted the Third Eastern Partnership Summit. Uladzimir Makei, the Belarusian Minister for Foreign Affairs, took part in the event. During the summit, Makei said that Belarus would start negotiations on visa regime liberalisation with the EU. It appears that both parties are working out a new vision of their relationship. The Eastern Partnership’s minor progress in its relations with Belarus is due primarily to Lukashenka`s reluctance to choose a European path of development. In part, this is because the regime remains financially dependent on the Kremlin. The European Union, for its part, simply cannot propose the same kind of financial support. While it has appropriated about $700m in technical aid to Belarus since 1991 - Russia gave its neighbor 14 times more in 2012 alone. To acquire more influence in Belarus, the EU needs channels of communication with the authorities. The first bargain could be simple: the EU counterbalances Russian influence in Belarus and Lukashenka`s regime stops repressing the opposition.