Belarus, Armenia, and Azerbaijan should be represented in EaP not only at the level of relations between officials of the countries-members, but also as other parties in societies of these countries.
On the eve of the Summit in Riga representatives of Belarusan civil society were not particular optimistic in their forecasts, but upon the end of the Forum assessments have become even more pessimistic – both in the European media as well as in the media of countries-members of the project. However, Ulad Vialichka, the head of the International Consortium “EuroBelarus”, notes that we shouldn’t particularly dramatize the situation, since it was a working Summit of the Eastern Partnership, without extra expectations and surprises, so there is no need to bury the initiative on the basis of this working and because of that not very bright event.
Ulad Vialichka in the interview with the “EuroBelarus” Information Service emphasizes that “Belarusan community didn’t have any special expectations from the Summit in Riga; Belarus’ civil society was rather expecting the prolongation of Belarus’ participation in the EaP as a country”. According to Ulad Vialichka, it was important to not to lose this Belarus-Europe frame of action at the national and international levels.
Clear statements about the development of the program in future as well as the additional signals re European prospects of Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia were expected. “These signals seem to be of diplomatic character, the process goes according to its own laws, its own dynamics, so there were no particular surprises at the Summit”. Even though “the countries didn’t get any particular offers, which is explained by the situation in the region that has become more complicated and problems in Europe”.
Ulad Vialichka doesn’t agree with the assessments of Eastern Partnership as a program on the brink of closure. “Indeed, the initiative got divided into two blocks: countries-leaders and countries-outsiders; however, we shouldn’t forget that none of these countries had any procedures of outpouring of popular will re the direction of the countries’ development – either towards Europeanization and gradual rapprochement with the EU or towards the Eurasian Union and, accordingly, flight into Russia’s zone of interests, - Ulad Vialichka notes. – All this is decided by politicians that mostly make groundless statements that are rather oriented at the current politics”. “That is why I personally believe that the agenda of the “Eastern Partnership” didn’t disappear anywhere but became even more ample. The other thing is that for its fulfillment we need a different level of political ambitions, boldness, and desire to really work with the issues that are in the focus of attention”, - said the Chief Executive Officer of the International Consortium “EuroBelarus”.
Ulad Vialichka notes that over the period between the Vilnius and Riga Summits the official Minsk “has remained at one place: in this sense we are not justified by some role of a mediator or a master of the arena for negotiations on Ukrainian crisis”. “We have lost almost two years, since even the idea of visa regime simplification voiced at the Summit in Vilnius is still where it used to be. Though, as far as I know, a certain expert work is going on, and we can expect that in the near months some improvements will come. But it is such an insignificant improvement that can be compared with transparent ballot-boxes in situation of no real elections. That is why Belarus can’t be happy because of such small progress in the situation of the “Eastern Partnership” – situation is developing much faster than what we pose as some progress”, - Ulad Vialichka said.
According to him, “the future of the “Eastern Partnership” as an integral program is only possible when the three countries-outsiders will be offered an adequate format of involvement not only at the level of the states, but also at the level of other interested parties in societies of these countries: civil society, business elites, academic community, and so on. Perhaps, it will open a second wind of the initiative”.