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EU Earmarking Billions In Aid For Belarus, Once Democracy Takes Root

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised to speed up work on the proposal.

The European Union is aiming to provide at least 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) to Belarus once the country starts on a democratic path with a focus on rule of law and justice reform, restructuring state-owned enterprises, and spending on infrastructure, according to a proposal seen by RFE/RL.

The leaked draft -- titled Outline Of The Proposed Comprehensive Plan Of Economic Support To Democratic Belarus -- is likely to be presented on May 28 and states that "once Belarus embarks on a democratic path, the EU will ensure as a priority to offer immediate and longer-term support to Belarus to help it stabilize its economy [and] reform its institutions to make them more democratic and able to contribute to delivering benefits for citizens and society as a whole."

The plan was first proposed in autumn 2020 after a disputed presidential election in which authoritarian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed a landslide victory and subsequently cracked down violently on countrywide protests.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen promised to speed up work on the proposal after a Belarusian fighter jet intercepted a Ryanair passenger flight on May 23 and forced it to land in Minsk, where journalist Raman Pratasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, a Russian national, were taken off the flight and detained.

In parallel to the outline, the bloc is also working on more individual sanctions on people and companies close to the regime, as well as wider sectoral economic sanctions, which could be ready in June.

The plan in the outline consists of three pillars:

  • The first focuses on the economic recovery of Belarus, with the document stating that EU macro-financial assistance "will help restore macro-economic stability and strengthen its precarious fiscal situation." It also states that Brussels will host a high-level EU-Belarus investment forum bringing together key European investors and also organize a high-level EU donor meeting to mobilize additional EU grant resources.
  • The second pillar focuses on the restructuring of state-owned enterprises such as banks, the improvement of property rights, the reform of public administration, and the introduction of the rule of law and judicial reform.
  • The third pillar offers other concrete investments in specific sectors, such as direct support to 20,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, improved transport connectivity and trade at EU-Belarusian borders, the building of an IT school in Minsk, and spending to boost energy efficiency and waste management.

The 3 billion-euro plan will be discussed by EU member states in the council in the coming weeks.

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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak is the Europe editor for RFE/RL in Prague, focusing on coverage of the European Union and NATO. He previously worked as RFE/RL’s Brussels correspondent, covering numerous international summits, European elections, and international court rulings. He has reported from most European capitals, as well as Central Asia.