Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka has been invited to a dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) in Brussels, Belgium, on 13 May.
The news was made public by Radio Svaboda with reference to several anonymous sources. The European Union (EU) representative office in Minsk confirmed this information.
Lukashenko as well as other leaders of the Eastern Partnership countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine – was invited to Brussels.
However, the sources reportedly don’t expect the president to show up in person, he is more likely to be represented by Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei, they believe.
Recall that in 2017 Makei attended the Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels instead of the president who was repeatedly excluded from the previous high-level summits.
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Back then Brussels sanctioned Belarus following the crackdown after the presidential election in Belarus in December 2010. Only in February 2016, in response to the release of political prisoners, the EU lifted most sanctions.
Those included the lifting of asset freezes and visa bans on 170 Belarusians, Alexander Lukashenko among them, and restrictive measures against 14 companies.
Belarus and the EU have been working on signing partnership priorities and visa agreements (simplification of visa procedures and readmission) for some time now. The parties have repeatedly declared that they are in the final stage of discussion.
The EU launched the Eastern Partnership in 2009 to strengthen relations between the EU, its members and six Eastern neighbors, promote economic integration and European values.