The experts on Belarusian policy couldn’t but comment on the recent reshuffle by Aliaksandr Lukashenka who appointed currently ex-head of the Presidential Administration Uladzimir Makiej the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus.
Like his predecessor Siarhiej Martynau, Uladzimir Makiej will not determine Belarus’ foreign policy as this is the prerogative of Aliaksandr Lukashenka and his advisers, veteran opposition politician Stanislau Shushkievich says commenting on the Belarusian leader’s decision to transfer Mr. Makey from the position of head of the Presidential Administration to the postion of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
“I think Makiej is more nimble and Martynau was unconscionably complaisant, a typical graduate of MGIMO [Moscow State Institute of International Relations], a primitive servant.”
“Makiej is complaisant as well, but he is more sharp-witted. He had been in the position of head of the Presidential Administration for too long. Besides, he is barred from entering the EU. And now that he has appointed foreign minister, he may be able to travel abroad again. Probably, there is a plan behind this,” Mr. Shushkievich says.
Another political analyst Raman Jakaulieuski also thinks Uladzimir Makiej is not the person who can help improve Belarus’ relations with the West.
“This is because of the fact that Makiej, unlike Martynau, is on the list of individuals barred from entering the European Union,” Mr. Jakaulieuski explains.
“After the government’s crackdown on political opponents in late 2010 and early 2011, Martynau was in fact the only high-ranking Belarusian official not subjected to EU sanctions. As they said, that was done to maintain at least minimal contact with Minsk.”
“The appointment of a man barred from entering to EU as foreign minister suggests that one should hardly expect changes in Belarus’ foreign policy,” he says. “It is difficult to see in Makiej a person who will hold a round of dialogue with the West, although he and Martynau performed this role rather successfully prior to the 2010 presidential election.”
Mr. Jakaulieuski also notes that the appointment of Mr. Makey would unlikely foil Brussels’ plans with regard to Minsk. “I don’t think Makey will be a better negotiator than Martynaw in this respect,” he said.
Mr. Jakaulieuski mentions that the appointment came after a visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Minsk: “On the other hand, as far as I know, Makiej was not welcomed in Moscow, where he was viewed as a sort of pro-Western person in Lukashenka’s entourage.”
However, political analyst Dzianis Mieljancou disagrees with the two aforementioned experts.
The appointment of Uladzimir Makiej as foreign minister may suggest that the role of the foreign ministry will increase, he says.
“The foreign ministry as a whole and Makiej himself were viewed as the main advocates of a pro-European policy in the government and Makiej is considered to be the father of the liberalization idea declared in 2008.”
“However, we should wait to find out who will be appointed to head the Presidential Administration, as it is no secret that all major foreign-policy decisions are made in the Presidential Administration and the foreign ministry is just an executor,” he said.
“On the face of it, the appointment looks like a sign that the government will seek to warm relations with the West, but Makiej is on the European Union’s blacklist and barred from entering the EU. It is possible that he will be removed from the list. Siarhiej Martynau [the ex-FM] avoided being entered in the list because he was assigned the role of a contact person. And now I guess it would be logical for the EU to remove Makiej from the blacklist.”
Mr. Makiej was added to the EU’s list of Belarusians subject to travel bans and asset freezes on January 31, 2011 as one of those responsible for the government’s crackdown on political opponents following the December 2010 presidential election.