Speaking at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Prague on May 9, European Union enlargement chief Štefan Füle addressed a variety of issues related to the enlargement aspirations of the six Eastern Partnership countries and the nations of the Western Balkans. But he reserved his strongest rhetoric for the two countries that have traditionally been at opposite ends of the enlargement spectrum.
Füle said Belarus, which remains under EU sanctions following a flawed presidential vote in 2010 and a massive crackdown on opponents, has seen civil liberties strangled by autocratic leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
“In Belarus, it is not only political prisoners; it is the level of the democracy, the level of the rule of law in Belarus, it is the the absence of free and fair elections for years in Belarus,” Füle said. “There is actually no space for democratic forces to operate without harassment by Belarusian authorities. This is the very substance of the Lukashenka regime that makes the member states pursue this policy of critical engagement.”