French President Emmanuel Macron is making his first visit from Monday to Wednesday to Lithuania and Latvia, two Baltic states which hope for his support in the face of the political crisis in neighboring Belarus and Russian pressure.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko “must leave,” Macron said on the eve of this tour, during which he is due to meet his Lithuanian counterparts Gitanas Nauseda and Latvian Egils Levits, as well as Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krisjanis Karins.
The political crisis in Belarus, a neighboring country of Lithuania and Latvia, is expected to dominate the Frenchman’s discussions with the Baltic leaders after the re-election on August 9 of Lukashenko, accused by the opposition of having rigged the election and supported by Vladimir Putin.
Both the EU and the Baltic countries did not recognize the election, and Lithuania gave refuge to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
“What is happening in Belarus is a crisis of power, an authoritarian power which cannot accept the logic of democracy and which hangs on by force. It is clear that Lukashenko must leave ”, affirmed Mr. Macron on the eve of his departure, in statements to the Sunday newspaper (JDD).
The three Baltic states have decided on sanctions against Belarusian officials found responsible for the crackdown on the opposition. The European Union is also expected to take sanctions against the Belarusian regime, for the time being blocked by the veto from Cyprus.
The French presidency has indicated that it is “not excluded” that the French president will meet the Belarusian opponent in Vilnius. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya told the daily on Thursday Figaro that she “expects a lot” from the French president and hopes that he “gets involved in helping us break the deadlock”.
“Bring democracy to life”
In his statements to the JDD, Macron said he was “impressed by the courage of the demonstrators” in Belarus. “They know the risks they take by parading every weekend and yet they continue the movement to bring democracy to life in this country which has been deprived of it for so long,” he said.
France is calling for a peaceful transition for Belarus, with the end of the repression and then by the initiation of a dialogue taking into account the will of the population, “while avoiding the risk of greater repression, or even intervention by Russia ”, recalled the Elysee.
“I happened to speak to Vladimir Putin on September 14, the day he was hosting Lukashenko in Sochi. I told him that Russia has a role to play, and that role can be positive if he pushes Lukashenko to respect the truth of the ballot box and to release political prisoners. It was two weeks ago, we are not there, “the French president told JDD.
During his visit to the Baltic countries, “Emmanuel Macron could strengthen the European position vis-à-vis Belarus, or even play a mediating role between Lukashenko and the opposition,” said Latvian political scientist Marcis Krastins.
The trip takes place against a backdrop of tensions with their big Russian neighbor, caused by the poisoning affair of opponent Alexei Navalny, the French presidency also stressed.
In April 2018, Emmanuel Macron received the presidents of the three Baltic States in Paris on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of their independence. He then reaffirmed that France was at their “side”, in particular “within the framework of NATO”.
The Atlantic Alliance has deployed permanent rotations of troops to Poland and the Baltic states in the face of Moscow’s deemed aggressive policies since the 2014 annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.