This new policy brief from the the Centre for European Reform (CER), written by Charles Grant and Mark Leonard, argues for a new EU policy towards Belarus. The EU should offer the regime big incentives to reform, but also make clear that any further repression would provoke a tough response. The EU should step up its efforts to support civil society and overhaul its methods for aiding NGOs. The EU must also engage with Russia to discuss how best to encourage a reform agenda within Belarus.
* On March 19th the people of Belarus - a small but strategically important country - vote in a presidential election. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka is certain to claim a landslide victory. Although the election has not been free and fair, widespread popular protests - of the sort that led to Ukraine's 'Orange Revolution' - are unlikely.
* The EU's current policy of 'conditional engagement' has failed to improve the situation in Belarus. The EU has withheld favours and cut off contacts, but the regime has become steadily more authoritarian.
* The EU needs a new policy. It should offer big incentives to encourage the regime to reform, but also make clear any further repression would provoke a tough response. It should step up its efforts to support civil society and overhaul its methods for aiding NGOs.
* European leaders should tell Russia that the EU has a legitimate interest in how Belarus is governed. But the EU should also stress that it does not see Belarus as a pawn in a geopolitical game. Both the EU and Russia would benefit from a stable, prosperous and democratic Belarus.