Belarus will be holding parliamentary elections on Sunday 23 September, but will this change anything? Is further integration between Belarus and the EU on the right track and can we expect any democratic change after this elections? "I would like to be optimistic but there is little evidence for such changes, " said Polish Christian-Democrat MEP Filip Kaczmarek. We asked the chair of the EP's delegation for relations with Belarus about his hopes and expectations for the elections.
What do you expect from the 2012 elections in Belarus? Are there any promising trends?
If the upcoming elections are democratic and free, then the EU could see a partner in Belarus. I would like to be optimistic, but the problem is that so far there is no sign of this. Of course, it is hard to assess the election before Sunday but I don't think we can expect a breakthrough. The presidential elections are more important in Belarus. This may be the reason why the campaign for Sunday's election seems to be better and more peaceful than before. However, these small improvements will not lead to any important changes in the relationship between Belarus and the EU.
What is needed to encourage further integration and cooperation between Belarus and the EU?
In Belarus everything can change very quickly. Everything depends on one person – the president. The lack of compatibility between the EU's system and values and that of the presidential system in Belarus makes it hard to say what else we could do to encourage Belarus to cooperate more. The EU is trying to strengthen civil society in Belarus, which is one of the few things we can do.
What does Belarus expect from the EU?
Belarus would like its relations with the EU to be as normal as possible, not only when it comes to trade and economy but also when it comes to visa-free travel but they are not ready to meet the EU's conditions. Their expectations are not excessive but to make it happen, the EU needs to see some changes from their side.
The EU is ready for further integration with Belarus once some changes have taken place and when Belarus accepts what we believe are universal values. We need to remember that Belarus is a part of Europe and if EU wants to promote the European model we should do so with our closest neighbours such as Belarus.
Even a small sign of good will from Belarus would do. Nevertheless, when we ask the Belarus government to release political prisoners in order to improve relations, they reply by saying that we are interfering in the internal affairs of Belarus. This shows that they do not understand our values, which are non-negotiable.