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Merkel and Macron to meet in France


Merkel and Macron to meet in France

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Photo: Kay Nietfeld/Pool via REUTERS

French President Emmanuel Macron is set to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today at his Cote-d’Azur summer residence.

The agenda will focus on their response to the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Belarus after President Alexander Lukashenko declared victory in the August 9 elections, which were marred by accusations of widespread fraud. Paris and Berlin have signalled their support for the demonstrations, and Merkel has offered to act as a mediator in potential power-transfer negotiations between Lukashenko and the opposition. The EU has also begun preparations to impose sanctions on senior officials in Lukashenko’s regime.

However, further actions against Belarus will likely be tempered by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s insistence against “foreign meddling” in a country that is deeply embedded within Russia’s sphere of influence. Since both Macron and Merkel are uneager to provoke Russian ire directly—or to force Lukashenko fully into Putin’s embrace—their options going forward are limited.

Internal dynamics in Belarus are more likely to shape events than European pronouncements. Lukashenko is bent on retaining power and has rejected constitutional reform unless it is on his own terms. Thus, Europe’s response will depend on how the mass demonstrations continue to unfold, as well as the extent to which they can extract concessions from the ruling regime.

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