Kristina Rikhter is Legal Advisor to Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, head of the Belarusian democratic opposition. In her background paper, Rikhter describes the challenges faced by the Belarusian diaspora. The adoption of a new law by the Belarusian regime, which prohibits Belarusians from applying for identity documents or other official papers at Belarusian embassies abroad, is particularly problematic. To do so, they must now return to Belarus, where many run the risk of being arrested for their political activities at home and abroad. For members of the Belarusian diaspora, it is increasingly difficult to obtain a long-term residence permit in their host country. This leads to further obstacles in terms of access to healthcare, education and the labor market.
Katsiaryna Shmatsina is researcher at the Virginia Tech University in Washington, D.C. with a focus on Belarus’ foreign policy, regional security and geopolitical risks with regards to Russia, Eurasia and NATO. In her background paper, Shmatsina sheds light on current developments in Belarus and around the Belarusian regime. While the country's geopolitical situation as an accomplice in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has largely stagnated over the past year, Shmatsina emphasises the ongoing mechanisms of repression against Belarus's own population. The EU must develop a comprehensive Belarus strategy in order to be prepared for possible developments and to continue to support the country's democratic transformation.
Both background papers were published in advance of the public debate "Between Solidarity and Pressure: Belarusians in Europe" on Thursday, 30 November 2023 via Zoom and served as a basis for discussion.