The leader of the Belarusian opposition, Sviatlana Cichanouska, sent a message to the participants of the Polish Future Campus. Among other things, she spoke about the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border. – This summer, Alyaksandr Lukashenka created the action of illegal mass migration through the territory of Belarus as a tool for creating border crises with Lithuania and Poland and provoking the European Union – she assessed. During the panel, a debate was also held with the participation of, inter alia, representatives of opposition activists.
The topic of the first Sunday panel at the Poland of the Future Campus in Olsztyn was the slogan “How to defend the values of Europe?”. One of the pretexts for the discussion was the situation in Belarus.
Leader of the Belarusian opposition Swiatłana Cichanouska, a candidate for the presidential elections in Belarus in 2020, recorded a video in English with a message to the participants of the event, which was broadcast before the panel.
Swiatłana Cichanouska at the Campus of the Polish Future
In it, she said that she was proud of Belarusian society and its attitude since August 2020, when elections were held, which, according to the opposition and a large part of the public, were rigged. As she said, all the people who demonstrated about their results were “heroes of a democratic Belarus”.
She argued that Belarusian society does not cease to dream of a new, democratic Belarus. Cichanouska also emphasized that her country needs European solidarity today and that it deserves a better future.
The situation at the borders with Belarus. Cichanouska: a tool for creating border crises
The leader of the Belarusian opposition also spoke about the actions of the Lukashenka regime in the context of migration. – This summer, Lukashenka created the illegal mass migration action through Belarus as a tool to create border crises with Lithuania and Poland and to provoke the European Union – she said.
– How the actions of this scheme of crowding out the population have already been tested during the repression aimed at ridding the country of civil society in its entirety – she added.
Debate on the situation in Belarus and the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka
Former Polish Commissioner of the European Union and former Deputy Prime Minister Elżbieta Bieńkowska, Cecilia Malmstroem – former member of the Swedish government and EU commissioner, Olga Kovalkova – activist of the Belarusian opposition, member of the Belarusian Coordination Council, and also participated in the debate led by the head of “Krytyka Polityczna”, Sławomir Sierakowski. Tatiana Niadbaj – a Belarusian culture animator who played one of the key roles in the protests in this country, was the head of the Belarusian PEN Club.
Olga Kovalkowa, speaking about how 2020 has changed Belarusians, said that during that time something happened to which Belarusian society matured during 26 years of dictatorship. It was strengthening people’s belief that they had the right to make their own decisions, which was the result of working at the foundations of political leaders – she assessed.
In her opinion, in 2020 a new page in the history of Belarus began, which will bear fruit – just like the Solidarity carnival of 1980-81 in Poland in 1989. Kovalkova also appealed to the European Union to speak more clearly about the values that guide this community.
Kovalkova: Lukashenka would like us to get off the screens
Tatiana Niadbaj said that the goal of the Belarusians was only to hold free elections. Today, as a result of the events of August 2020, there are over 600 political prisoners in Belarus, she pointed out.
She admitted that she was close to Jerzy Giedroyc’s concept, under which Belarus forms a bloc of states with Poland and Lithuania. She also thanked Poland for the help of the Belarusian opposition. “We have the greatest support from you,” said Niadbaj. She expressed satisfaction that the European Union is not succumbing to the blackmail of Lukashenka, for which he uses migrants. “We were afraid it would be another trade,” she said.
Sławomir Sierakowski asked what would have to happen for the Lukashenka regime to collapse and whether it was influenced by the situation in Russia. Kovalkova replied that power in Belarus was held by the power ministries, so the opposition should reach out to these people and convince them. In her opinion, civil society should also develop in Russia, which will force changes. – It’s good that we are talking about Belarus all the time, because Lukashenka would like us to leave the screens – added Kovalkova.
How to deal with the Belarusian regime? Bieńkowska: imposing sanctions and helping society
According to Malmstroem, EU countries should defend the values on which the European Union is built “inside and out”. She judged that therefore it was important that the Community countries that do not comply with the standards are not rewarded, and that they do not receive money, as they do not respect fundamental rights.
Bieńkowska admitted that Poland also has some problems today in terms of European values. Speaking about the situation in Belarus, she assessed that the country should be dealt with in two ways – by imposing sanctions on the regime and providing aid to civil society.
The activist Jana Shostak present in the audience asked whether the EU should somehow stop the International Monetary Fund, which has just provided aid to the Lukashenka regime. Malmstroem replied that the European Commission cannot influence the IMF, which is tasked with supporting the economies.
Kovalkova decided that the sanctions should apply to all companies that support Lukashenka’s regime, including those from Russia. She also regretted that the IMF recognized the regime’s institutions and provided them with financial support.
Main photo source: Organizer photos