An upcoming Eastern European summit scheduled for November has FSU (Former Soviet Union) nations focused on coalition building and improving relations with neighboring countries.
Belarus has made some very public improvements on a number of human rights issues and international relations in the past few weeks. But Ukraine has been called out by the E.U. on a specific issue and as that country seeks political association and free trade agreements, European leaders are critical of Ukraine's president Yanukovich.
Belarus produces 43% of the world's potash exports. But President Lukashenko has been widely criticized for human rights violations including jailings of political dissidents. A Swiss human rights group dropped teddy bears holding pro-democracy messages over Belarus in an effort to encourage the people and send the government a strong message that improved relations with the E.U. mean better relations with his own people first.
But Belarus seems to have caught on to the idea of 'making nice' first by signing a memorandum of cooperation with Indonesia and then with Laos with designs on opening an embassy in Indonesia. Second, Belarus hosted the first session of a financial intelligence council which included other FSU countries aimed at enabling 'active international cooperation between the national financial intelligence units'. That meeting took place two weeks ago.
In addition, Belarus is spearheading a UN Global plan of action to stop human trafficking for the organ, tissue and cell trade. Steps on this path have Lukashenko looking not so bad. Willing to cooperate politically, financially and socially to bring about positive change in the Eastern Bloc.
Ukraine is among the world's largest urea producers and has been bullied in the FSU from time to time, but the greatest damage in the past few decades has come from its own political establishments. In 1991, Ukraine declared independence from Moscow by a margin of 90% in favor.
Since then, a journalist's murder, private broadcasting frequency shut-downs, and implications of Presidential misdeeds have kept Ukraine from moving forward. Most notable to the E.U. is the current Ukraine President's decision not to free opposition member and former Prime Minister under the socialist regime, Yulia Tymoshenko who is serving a seven year prison sentence.
President Yanukovich has also angered legislators in Kiev by delivering his annual state-of-the-nation address in writing rather than in person. This has prompted chaos and disorder at the highest levels among current lawmakers and Tymoshenko sympathizers.
Yanukovich has made little effort in proving his party and his nation are ready to contribute to free trade agreements and positive political associations. The E.U. has taken notice and has been vocal about the necessary reforms it would take for Ukraine to be made ready for free trade.
The two FSU nations still have a lot to prove to the E.U. if they are to be a party to the perks international trade associations can offer. But as Belarus moves toward improving the situation from within, Ukraine seems content to maintain the status quo, hoping the E.U. will pick on somebody else for awhile.
The November summit could be a real circus.