It was an unprecedented slap in the face of Mr. Alexander Lukashenko. NATO officials made it crystal clear that the Belarussian leader was not welcome at the NATO summit in Prague and when Mr. Alexander Lukashenko announced his intention to attend the conference anyway the Czech republic refused to issue him an entry visa.
The Czech government official in charge of laying the groundwork for the summit, Mr. Alexander Vondra, was quoted as saying, “As a representative of the Czech state, I am not jumping with joy at the thought of the Belarussian president sharing in the summit. He would do everybody, particularly Belarus, a service, if he did not come,” Vondra said. Earlier NATO Secretary General George Robertson said he would be glad if Mr. Alexander Lukashenko found other things to do during the time of the summit.
The Russian Duma was divided on the Czech denial to issue a visa to Mr. Alexander Lukashenko. Many deputies dislike the Belarussian strongman’s policies but others are eager to push the Russia-Belarus union. Mr. Konstantin Kosachov, first deputy leader of the Duma group of the Fatherland-All Russia party, said he disliked Mr. Alexander Lukashenko’s foreign policy, which is “openly confrontational and runs against the general desire of European states, including Russia, to create a single legal, economic and humanitarian space on the continent.” But Mr. Alexander Kuvayev, leader of the Communist Party’s Moscow branch, said the Czech refusal to give Mr. Alexander Lukashenko a visa and their point that NATO countries did not wish to see the Belarussian leader at their summit “demonstrates that this position has nothing to do with democracy, and is merely evidence of their true interpretation of human rights.”
Nevertheless, the Czech decision hasn’t come as unexpected. A head of state who grossly violates the rights of citizens, including their right to life, to freedom of movement, to the freedom to express their opinion, cannot be welcomed by any self-respecting European state.
As Mr. Michael Kozak, the American ambassador to Minsk, put it Belarus should fulfil the four requirements formulated by European organisations to change the situation: remove the atmosphere of fear, adjust the electoral legislation to international standards, treat all mass media fairly and revise the actual powers of legislative bodies. Until then, Belarus is likely to remain on the fringe of the European Union despite its geographic location. (717)