Andreas Peschke, Director for Eastern Europe, in Minsk and reactions after the presidential elections in Belarus

Andreas Peschke, Director for Eastern Europe, held political talks in Minsk on 6 and 7 October. His schedule included in-depth consultations with Alena Kupchyna, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and talks with representatives of the ODIHR’s election observation mission, political experts and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

Altstädter Rathaus in Minsk Enlarge image (© AA)

Peschke praised the release of political prisoners a few weeks ago and underlined Germany’s interest in closer relations with Belarus. However, he also emphasised that the events of 2010 must not be allowed to happen again.

After his talks, the Director for Eastern Europe visited Maly Trostenets Memorial just outside Minsk, where over 200,000 people, mainly German, Austrian and Belarusian Jews, were murdered by the National Socialists during the Second World War. The memorial will be expanded with German support. There is also a memorial in Minsk commemorating the Jewish victims of National Socialist crimes.

The Belarusian presidential election

The Belarusian presidential election took place on 11 October. After the election of 2010 was overshadowed by violence, Germany and other international partner countries followed the developments very closely. The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) coordinated the international election observation.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier in Luxemburg Enlarge image Foreign Minister Steinmeier with journalists at the margins of an EU Foreign Affairs Council. (© Thomas Imo / photothek.de )

The OSCE election observation group stressed subsequently to the elections that the reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko again did not comply with democratic standards. At the same time, the head of the group, Kent Hasted, described the recent release of political prisoners, among other things, as a “positive development”, a sentiment which the German Foreign Minister echoed in Luxembourg on 12 October 2015 on occasion of the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers. Steinmeier last spoke to Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei on the phone a few days before, when he stated frankly that the international community would continue to observe Belarus’ treatment of its political opposition after the elections were over.

The EU Foreign Ministers also discussed the possibility of adapting the sanctions imposed against Belarus on 12 October. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said that there was a willingness to review relations with Belarus, going on to say that the Foreign Ministers would again discuss the possibility of bringing sanctions to an end in early 2016.

Andreas Peschke, Director for Eastern Europe, in Minsk and reactions after the presidential elections in Belarus

Gespräch des Osteuropa-Beauftragten Peschke mit der stellvertretenden Außenministerin Kupchyna

German involvement in Belarus

Eighty German companies are currently based in Belarus. The Goethe-Institut and the German Academic Exchange Service also have offices in Minsk. Over 100,000 pupils are learning German at schools in Belarus. The country has 18,000 students of German studies, while 1800 Belarusian students are studying in Germany. German organisations have also been helping people affected by the disaster in the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl on the border to Belarus for a long time. For many years, tens of thousands of Belarusian children have been invited to Germany for a holiday.

Bilateral relations: Germany and Belarus