Context:

European Union foreign ministers agreed to impose sanctions on scores of officials and several organizations in Belarus, and prepared a series of economic measures aimed at hitting President Alexander Lukashenko and his allies.

Relevance:

Prelims, GS-II: International Relations (Important International groupings), GS-I: Maps

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. European Union
  2. About Belarus
  3. Recent Protests in Belarus

European Union

  • The European Union (EU) is a political and economic union of 27 member states that are located primarily in Europe.
  • The EU has developed an internal single market through a standardized system of laws that apply in all member states in those matters, and only those matters, where members have agreed to act as one.
  • EU policies aim to
    • Ensure the free movement of people, goods, services and capital within the internal market;
    • Enact legislation in justice and home affairs;
    • Maintain common policies on trade, agriculture, fisheries and regional development.
  • A monetary union was established in 1999, coming into full force in 2002, and is composed of 19 EU member states which use the euro currency.
  • In January 2020, the United Kingdom became the first member state ever to leave the EU.
  • Note: United Kingdom is not a part of the EU now.

About Belarus

  • Belarus is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the east and northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest.
  • Belarus is the thirteenth-largest and the twentieth-most populous country in Europe and Minsk is the capital and largest city.
  • Belarus is a developing country ranking very high in the Human Development Index.
  • It has been a member of the United Nations since its founding as well as a member of the CIS, the CSTO, the EAEU, the OSCE and the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • It has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but nevertheless maintains a bilateral relationship with the bloc, and likewise participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative.
  • The parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus in 1990 and during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence in 1991.
  • Alexander Lukashenko was elected Belarus’s first president in the country’s first and only free election post-independence, serving as president ever since.
  • Lukashenko’s government is widely considered to be authoritarian and human rights groups consider human rights in the country to be poor.
  • Lukashenko has continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy.

Recent Protests in Belarus

  • Belarus is gripped by mass protests, triggered by an election widely believed to have been rigged in favour of the long-time leader Alexander Lukashenko.
  • The scale of the protests is unprecedented for Belarus and more than 600 people were detained during the September 2020 protests.
  • After violent clashes with opposition demonstrators, numerous allegations of police brutality, processions of women in white with roses and walkouts at major state enterprises.

What is the background?

  • Europe’s longest-serving ruler, President Lukashenko took office in 1994 amid the chaos caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • Often described as Europe’s “last dictator”, he has tried to preserve elements of Soviet communism. Much of manufacturing has remained under state control, and main media channels have been loyal to the government. The powerful secret police is even still called the KGB.
  • At the same time, Mr Lukashenko has tried to style himself as a tough nationalist with a direct manner, defending his country from harmful foreign influences, and a guarantor of stability.
  • These factors have given him – until now – a solid base of support, though elections under his rule have never been considered free or fair.
  • The opposition protests have been fuelled by complaints about widespread corruption and poverty, a lack of opportunities and low pay. Dissatisfaction was compounded by the coronavirus crisis.

-Source: The Hindu

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