Belarusian roundtable discussion on the country’s future within EU's Eastern Partnership did not shy away from criticising Lithuania – speakers claimed Vilnius remains the sole obstacle, and according to some, Lithuanian “far-right in power” wants to see “Belarus destroyed”.
The roundtable discussion on November 22 in Minsk as part of ‘Eastern Partnership 2030’ project was opened by the Polish Ambassador to Belarus, Artur Michalski, and featured regional experts and government representatives.
According to Belarusian online media, reform.by, the head of IPM Business School in Minsk, Pavel Daneika, said Belarus’ relations with the EU will remain difficult as long as Lithuania keeps blocking discussions on Partnership Priorities due to the dispute over Astravyets’ nuclear plant.
“After receiving the name ‘Lithuania’ from Catherine the Great, Vilnius from Stalin, [the Lithuanians] want to get the destruction of Belarus, a predecessor to the Lithuanian Grand Duchy, from [Russian President] Putin,” said Daneika.
Belarusians observing the procession in Vilnius Cathedral Square / E. Blaževič/LRT
The official Lithuanian position supports Belarusian sovereignty, with previous statements by Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius and the country’s president, Gitanas Nausėda, expressing the need to stave off Russian encroachment.
“We are interested in Belarus' maintaining its sovereignty,” said Linkevičius after Russian media claimed that Minsk and Moscow were moving towards a de facto confederacy in 2020.
Yet, Piotr Rudkouski from Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies replied ironically to the colleague’s comments on “nationalism” in Lithuania, according to reform.by.
“When taking part in these discussions I learn something new every time,” said Rudkouski. “For example, that there is a conservative-nationalist government in Lithuania.”
He also said that out of the six Eastern Partnership countries, Belarus is most skeptical towards the EU.
The EU, on the other hand, “is interested that we have a stable situation, ie a dictatorship,” said a philosopher, Vladimir Mackevich.
Lithuanian-Belarusian border / E. Genys/LRT
Valery Karbalevich, a political scientist, said the EU has changed its position and now views Astravyets’ nuclear plant question more favourably towards Lithuania. He claimed that the thaw between Belarus and the EU will take a long time, and it’s unlikely that the two parties will be able to sign Partnership Priorities any time soon.
Karbalevich pointed to the words by European Commissioner Johannes Hahn, when he said in early November that the agreement between the EU and Belarus “depends if we will a solution on Astravyets’ NPP”.
“Lithuania has tried for a long time to draw the EU into this conflict, but was unsuccessful so far,” said Karbalevich, adding that Belarusian and Lithuanian positions on the question are completely different, and therefore, the EU-Minsk agreement is in a dead-end.
Belarusian diplomats previously criticised Lithuania for blocking the signing of Partnership Priorities, an early step in Eastern Partnership dialogue between the EU and its eastern members.
Out of the six Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – only Minsk doesn’t have an agreement with the EU.