Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka will not attend the European Union’s Eastern Partnership summit in Brussels on November 24.
Ahead of the previous four summits, the EU made it clear that Lukashenka, who has ruled Belarus for 23 years and has been called “Europe’s last dictator” by some Western officials, was not welcome. Still, he got an invitation to this summit, and his presence in Brussels would surely have grabbed the headlines.
The EU launched the Eastern Partnership in 2009 to promote economic integration and European values in the six Eastern European and South Caucasus countries.
Now, with association agreements, free-trade agreements, and visa-free travel in force for Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova — but with membership obviously a far-off prospect — the path forward is unclear.
Lukashenka, who has been president since 1994, won a fifth term in a 2015 election that was judged by Western monitors to be neither free nor fair.
The EU introduced restrictive measures against the country in 2004 in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman, and one journalist.
The European Council adopted further sanctions in the wake of the crackdown that followed the previous presidential election in December 2010.
But in February 2016, the EU lifted most sanctions against the country — asset freezes and visa bans on 170 Belarusians, including Lukashenka and senior officials, and restrictive measures against 14 companies.