Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko threatened last week to allow illegal migrants into the European Union in retaliation for new sanctions the bloc has placed on his country. In an email interview, Jana Kobzova, a policy fellow and coordinator of the Wider Europe Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, discussed EU policy toward Belarus.
WPR: What is the current state of political and economic relations between the EU and Belarus?
Jana Kobzova: Icy is the word that best describes the political relationship between the two today. Relations were mildly better in 2009-2010, when the two sides talked about expanding cooperation. But when the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko cracked down on anti-government protests in late 2010 and early 2011, the EU returned to its sanctions policy. More than 240 officials, including Lukashenko himself, and some 30 companies are now subject to travel bans and asset freezes within the EU.