In a muddle over Minsk

The EU has difficulties dealing with Belarus.

The European Commission opened a delegation in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, in March 2008, when EU-Belarus relations were thawing. But the thaw was not complete, because the Commission ran the delegation from Kiev, the capital of neighbouring Ukraine.

Last year, in the run-up to the launch of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU decided to upgrade the office by recruiting someone who would be head of delegation and resident in Minsk. Officials from the EU institutions and national diplomats were invited to apply, but recruitment was politically sensitive and the position was readvertised. Belarus's rigged presidential election and the brutal security crackdown that followed have complicated matters further.

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a centre-right MEP, who once chaired the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee (in a manner that never hid his Polish loyalties), has come up with a further layer of complication. He says the EU should send a signal to Belarus that the EU cares about the country by appointing a fully-fledged ambassador. But, the ambassador should not be sent to Minsk until all political prisoners are released.

Whoever is appointed, he or just possibly she (unlikely in Catherine Ashton's EEAS) would presumably be given the choice of twiddling his thumbs in Brussels or Kiev.


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