What is happening between France and Belarus?

Sunday evening, to everyone’s surprise, Nicolas de Bouillane de Lacoste, French Ambassador to Belarus was forced to leave the country. “The Belarusian foreign ministry has requested that the ambassador leave before October 18,” said the spokesperson for his embassy. If the reason given by the Belarusian ministry was not relayed, this dismissal sounds like the culmination of long months of tensions between Belarus and France, but also with the European Union.

What are the official reasons for the dismissal of the French Ambassador?

According to Belarusian media, Nicolas de Bouillane de Lacoste was expelled because he never presented his credentials to President Alexander Lukashenko. This diplomatic document is supposed to formalize the entry into office of the ambassador. Written by the French Head of State, it is given to the Ambassador who must forward it to the Head of State of the country in which he is located. However, on its website, the French Embassy in Belarus indicates that the diplomat presented on December 8, 2020 “the figurative copy of his credentials” to Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei. The reasons for this expulsion could therefore lie elsewhere.

What is the antecedents between Belarus and France?

The conflicting relations between France and the European Union more generally are not new. But recently, a series of events have marred diplomatic relations between the 27 and the country of Eastern Europe. A little over a year ago, France did not recognize the results of the presidential election which granted a sixth term to Alexander Lukashenko. Indeed, at the end of the vote in August 2020, the members of the European Union unitedly accused the Belarusian regime of “violence, repression and electoral fraud”. For several months massive and unprecedented demonstrations took place in this former Soviet republic. Alexander Lukashenko accuses the West of being the instigators and reprimands them violently.

Emmanuel Macron personally reacted to this crisis by declaring in an interview with JDD that the Belarusian president had to “go”. “What is happening in Belarus is a crisis of power, an authoritarian power which cannot accept the logic of democracy and which clings by force”, he explained, stressing the courage of the demonstrators.

More recently last May, the rerouting to Minsk of an airliner flying from Athens to Vilnius on board which were a Belarusian opponent and his partner who were arrested, escalated tensions between the EU and the Belarus. Three days later, France refused its airspace to a Belarusian plane making a connection Minsk- and forced it to turn around. This sanction provokes the ire of the Belarusian government. “It is an absolutely scandalous fact and an immoral act. Honestly, it’s practically air piracy, ”Belarusian diplomacy spokesman Anatoly Glaz wrote in a statement.

Is France the only country to have been sanctioned by Belarus?

When the Belarusian government severely reprimands the demonstrations which follow the results of the presidential elections and imprison many opponents, the European Union and the United States adopt a series of sanctions against the Belarusian regime. The opposition receives the Sakharov Prize for human rights, those responsible for the repression in Belarus are inadmissible to the EU, Biden receives the opponent in exile Svetlana Tikhanovskaya… The sanctions also continue after the hijacking of the Ryanair plane with the closure of EU airspaces to Belarusian planes. However, with the support and credits of Moscow, the regime does not give in and responds more beautifully.

In March, Belarus expels a Polish consul for having participated in the tribute to the “cursed soldiers”, who fought against the German and Soviet occupations. That same month, the regime sacked all Latvian embassy staff, including the ambassador, accusing the Latvian authorities of using the Belarusian opposition flag during an ice hockey championship. In July, the country sent home two top Lithuanian diplomats after Lithuania accused Belarus of allowing hundreds of undocumented migrants to cross the border. Finally, in August, Minsk withdrew its agreement for the appointment of American Ambassador Julie Fisher, however confirmed in December as the first envoy of the United States to this former Soviet republic since 2008.

 
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