On Sending New Swiss Ambassador to Belarus and Presenting Credentials to Lukashenko

The news that Switzerland will send an Ambassador to Belarus ready to present credentials to Lukashenko has sparked discussions among Belarusians worldwide, including the Belarusian diaspora in Switzerland. Of course, the presentation of credentials by the Swiss ambassador will have a significant propaganda effect in Belarus itself and will certainly be presented by the Lukashenko regime as proof of recognition of its legitimacy. Meanwhile, it is worth quoting the current Swiss President Ignazio Cassis, who until recently headed the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and who repeatedly stressed: “unlike other European countries, Switzerland recognizes only states, not governments”. Thus, the question of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of Lukashenko’s regime is not directly raised by Switzerland. This approach used in the Swiss foreign policy should be taken as a given, as long as the government remains loyal to its diplomatic traditions.

There is an opinion about the economic background of the Swiss ambassador and the Swiss business lobby. We tend to think that this is not true – despite certain economic ties between our countries, their volume is hardly capable of determining or significantly influencing the policy of the Swityerland towards Belarus.

On the other hand, the presence of the Swiss Ambassador in Belarus has significant advantages in the current situation. First, it will ensure further involvement in the case of Ms. Natallia Hersche and the possibility to defend the interests of other Swiss nationals in Belarus, as was the case, for example, with the arrest of the Swiss journalist Luzia Tschirky, who covered the situation in Belarus, in January 2021. Secondly, the direct diplomatic relations between the Swiss Confederation and the Republic of Belarus, which were established only several years ago, should be preserved for the possible influence on the resolution of the crisis in Belarus and, once it is over, for the speedy return of Belarus to the family of civilised European countries. Thirdly, in the context of the intensifying repressions against the Belarusian citizens, the work of the ambassadors of the Western countries on documenting the situation in Belarus and transferring this information to the European capitals is very important.

Of course, the example of French Ambassador Nicolas de Lacoste, who for a long time avoided presenting his credentials to Lukashenko personally, is illustrative. We believe that such tactics help to delay the problem, but do not solve it, and suggest looking at this complex legal and moral dilemma in a different way. When former German Chancellor Angela Merkel twice called Lukashenko with the aim to solve the migration crisis, those calls did nothing to strengthen Lukashenko’s legitimacy: even with terrorists who have taken hostages one must negotiate to save lives. Not only Ms. Natallia Hersche, but the entire population of Belarus has been held hostage by the current political regime. From this point of view, helping people inside the country should be an important focus of diplomatic efforts, and a shrinking diplomatic presence cuts off such opportunities.

Association RAZAM.CH does not speak on behalf of all Belarusians living in Switzerland. This statement of RAZAM CH does not necessarily reflect the views of its individual members.