From left to right: President Saakashvili; President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and President of Ukraine Victor Yanukovych at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw, September 30. Photo: Grzegorz Rogiński/Polish PM’s office via Flickr
President Saakashvili said that without Belarus EU’s Eastern Partnership initiative for six former-Soviet states “will not be a full-fledged partnership.”
He was speaking with a group of Georgian journalists on September 30 after the two-day Eastern Partnership summit in Warsaw during which EU leaders and their counterparts from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine discussed future cooperation.
Although part of the Eastern Partnership, a seat of a Belarus representative at the table during the Warsaw summit was empty, after Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov snubbed an invitation to attend the event. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is barred from travel to EU.
Saakashvili said that it was “very bad” that the Belarus representatives were absent and called on the EU not to let Russia to seize an initiative in respect of Belarus.
“It is very important for the EU not to lose control over this process and not to [allow] another great neighbor [referring to Russia] to seize this process,” Saakashvili said.
“It was bad that there was no Belarus representative in the hall and we have noted it – it was very bad. It is important for the next summits to do utmost, including through dialogue and negotiations – EU is right when having a dialogue with the [Belarus] civil society representatives – at the same time talks based on principles should be carried out with official Minsk so that they take their sit on the negotiating table. This is important to foster European development of Belarus – we have noted it clearly here [at the summit] – and EU should be an important player in this process. Despite of all the difficulties we should overcome it in the future and find a solution,” Saakashvili said.
EU officials, including some leaders from the member states, German Chancellor Angela Merkel among them met with Belarus opposition representatives on the sideline of the Eastern Partnership summit.
Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, said after the summit that EU wanted “to have a reference on Belarus” in the declaration of the Eastern Partnership summit, which is a joint document of EU and the six countries from the Eastern Partnership.
“But for some reasons this was not possible,” he said, adding that because of that disagreement EU-member states had to make a separate statement on Belarus.
The EU’s statement expresses “deep concern at the deteriorating human rights, democracy and rule of law situation”, deplores the continued deterioration of media freedom in Belarus and call for the release of political prisoners. The EU also said in the statement that deepening of its engagement with Belarus was conditional to progress towards respect by the Belarusian authorities for democracy and human rights.