• 2005-06-15
Now that the European project has hit the brakes for an indefinite period of time, there are important implications to consider in the realm of foreign policy.

It would appear that, given West Europeans' anxiety over the prospect of Turkish membership, European Union expansion is likely to be put on hold for some time. For countries with 10 percent unemployment, inviting a country of 70 million into the club holds little economic weight.

If this be the case, and enlargement 's in recent years, one of the engines that has driven the entire union 's is indeed halted, however temporary, then EU leaders need to devise an action plan for engaging its new neighbors. For if Brussels can no longer dangle the carrot of membership before these hopeful members, then what can it offer? Ukraine can not be left hanging. Georgia and Croatia, too, can not be left hanging. Finally, Belarus, the continent's last dictatorship, can not be left unengaged.

This past week Lithuania welcomed the opening 's i.e., the re-opening 's of the European Humanities University, a private institution that had managed to get beneath the skin of Alexander Lukashenko and was subsequently closed down last year. The Minsk-based school's liberal-democratic values proved too prickly for the former collective farmer ruling Belarus. Now, however, the school is set to open in Vilnius later this year thanks to both local and European support.

Unfortunately, it's not enough. As EHU director Anatoly Mikhailov said, "We need more financial support from Europe, and European structures are not that flexible." But this is the kind of project Eurocrats should be jumping at. Investing in the education of young Belarusians in the Western tradition will guarantee future returns, while in the short-term it will further erode the foundation of the nefarious Belarusian regime. The struggle against Lukashenko is essentially a war of attrition, and if Brussels is brave, then the outcome of the battle that has 470 million one on side and a few thugs on the other, is predetermined. The key is bravery. And Europe, regardless of its abhorrence for confrontation and aggression, must show it.