Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 229

If the Foreign Ministry of Belarus is to be believed, the European Union countries have accepted in writing the eviction of their diplomatic residences from the Drazdy compound and will make alternative arrangements in Minsk. The eviction order last May, rudely enforced by Belarusan authorities against missions of Western and pro-Western countries, led to an international diplomatic scandal and the recall of the envoys. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s action was universally deemed to violate international conventions which guarantee the immunity of diplomatic missions (see the Monitor, June-September 1998, passim).

Yesterday in Minsk, however, European Union representatives and the Belarusan Foreign Ministry signed a joint statement which seems to settle the issue on Lukashenka’s terms, and in the process to separate the EU from the United States. Under the terms of the joint statement, the EU countries’ missions will return to their respective residences in Drazdy for a period of one month, only “to make arrangements for their final move out of the premises.” The Belarusan side shall pay compensation for the costs incurred, but the size of the compensation shall be negotiated afterward with each individual country. Lukashenka pledged his word on that in a letter to the EU’s Austrian presidency yesterday.

Under the agreement, the diplomats are to be guaranteed “unrestricted access” to the residences during that one month pending the move. Some EU diplomats may have seen this proviso as a legal and political face-saver. The United States is not a party to this kind of solution. The agreement, or at least the time-table for its implementation, seems to be still subject to final approval at EU headquarters. But the French Foreign Ministry’s chief spokesperson has lost no time welcoming this solution faute de mieux (Itar-Tass from Minsk and from Paris, December 10).