EU May Offer Assistance to Belarus, Condemns Lack of Reform

By Patrick Donahue

July 28 (Bloomberg) -- The European Union said it may offer economic assistance to Belarus along the lines of loans provided by the International Monetary Fund, while stressing the country hasn't done enough to reform itself and protect human rights.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov met with EU officials today in Brussels to tackle differences on the country's request for assistance, political reforms and record on human rights. EU financial assistance would be based on conditions set by the IMF, which last month said it may increase its loan to the former Soviet republic by about $1 billion.

"Then we can also consider macro-economic financial assistance," EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero- Waldner told reporters today in Brussels. "But of course it's far too early to say how much that would be."

Belarus is seeking new sources of foreign currency to buoy its economy, which has been battered by the global recession, and has borrowed $2.5 billion from the IMF and $2 billion from Russia. The EU has linked its assistance with criticism of the human-rights record of President Alexander Lukashenko.

"The political situation in Belarus does not meet the expectations that we have," Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said after the meeting. "We believe that the Belarusian authorities can and indeed should do more."

Belarus, a country of 10 million that borders Russia and three EU states, has given signals it wants to open up after Lukashenko was dubbed "Europe's last dictator" in 2005 by then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Ferrero-Waldner said progress on reform will be assessed by the EU from September.

Belarus's Martynov said his country demands less cumbersome visa requirements for its citizens to enter EU countries, adding that there was scope for agreement later this year.

"The relationship between Belarus and the European Union if a two-way road," Martynov said at today's press briefing. "We reasonably expect that we will be in a position to provide the necessary grants for the European Union to take a decision."

To contact the reporters on this story: Patrick Donahue in Brussels at



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