European Union Faces A Crisis, Eurasian Union Attracts New States - Belarus State TV Digest

Alexander Lukashenka's participation in the inauguration of Ukraine's elect-president was among the top news items over the last two weeks on state-run Channel 1. Reporters were particularly enthusiastic in pointing out that the Belarusian leader stood out from other politicians present in the event because he received more attention from Western and Ukrainian media than others.

“The Serbian nation is our people, the Belarusian people” – Lukashenka asserted during his recent official visit to Belgrade. In Serbia, he advocated for strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries and commented upon Western politicians inimical attitude towards the meeting of him and president Tomislav Nikolič.

On a few occasions, state TV commented in a positive way about the newly formed Eurasian Union, particularly the huge potential it has and how it has already attracted new states. Journalists also covered the European Union, reporting on the ongoing disagreement among EU member states over who will be the next president of the European Parliament.

Ukraine

Alexander Lukashenka: Territorial Integrity of Ukraine. The Belarusian leader took part in the inauguration of Petro Poroshenko for the Ukrainian presidency. State TV noted that the ceremony had special significance in the context of recent developments within the country.

They noted that although a number of foreign guests took part in the ceremony, the Belarusian leader received a lot of attention from the Western and Ukrainian media. After the ceremony several deputies approached Lukashenka to shake his hand and express their gratitude, journalist enthusiastically noted.

Lukashenka commented upon the future of Ukraine. To the question “What will Ukraine be like?”, he replied: “Ukraine should be one, a united, integrated state”. In his opinion, the country should seek to find an agreement both with Russia and the European Union.

“I hate all intermediaries and peacemakers. I think Ukrainians are a wise people who can deal with the problems on their own”, Lukashenka added. However, he expressed his readiness to help in some capacity. “The main hope of Ukrainians up until this point are related to revival of the country and a belief that it got finally have a chance to develop peacefully”, the Belarusian leader concluded.

"The Situation in Ukraine Remains Tense..." - One State TV Belarusian journalist reported cynically. Although the state authorities have already announced its "peace plan", the conflict is far from being over. Shooting once more erupted in Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Lugansk.

Belarusian state TV journalists also emphasise the need for Russia to take an active role to settle the conflict in Ukraine. Regularly invoking the Russian media, they failed to mention anything from Ukrainian sources. Over the past months Moscow has made two draft resolutions on Ukraine in the UN, "in accordance with the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity", as the journalist commented.

Foreign Affairs

Belarus-US: Towards Normalisation of Mutual Relations? Journalist took a note of the consultations carried out by Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uladzimir Makiej, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of US Department of State, Eric Rubin. They discussed the cooperation in international organisations. At present Minsk and Washington already work together in the sphere of the issues such as global and regional security, reported noted.

Is a Political Crisis Tearing Apart the European Union? Journalists speculated on who is to become the next president of the European Commission. EU member states do not agree on one candidate and that clearly proves that there is a crisis in the Union. Countries such as Germany, Italy, and Spain advocate for Jean-Claude Juncker, a supporter of further integration. However, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Hungary are less keen to support this candidature.

In the aftermath of recent elections to the European Parliament, a new coalition of euro-sceptics can obstruct any further European integration. “Who will be able to overcome the crisis in the integration and stop a rise of the anti-European moods is yet unclear”, reporter pointed out.

Official Visit of Lukashenka to Belgrade: Your People are our People. State TV took note that the economies of both countries are complimentary and have a firm foundation for further development. Belarus remains for Serbia a window to the Eurasian Union, according to the report. Serbia is not against working with the Eurasian Union, although holds the official status of candidate for European Union accession.

Journalists took note of how exceptionally good the relations between both countries remain. “We have always respected the Serbian nation, because the Serbian nation is one with us, the Belarusian nation”, Lukashenka asserted during the meeting of the two heads of state. In his opinion, Western countries have completely diminished or ignored the importance of the meeting between Belarusian and Serbian leaders. “They were ready to do anything possible to disrupt this visit or make it go unnoticed”, he proclaimed at the meeting.

The president of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolič, praised the Belarusian model of economy: “In Serbia, in the aftermath of massive privatisation, many enterprises remained stagnate, and you preserved your economy”, the Serbian president stated.

Belarus-Serbia Relations. Just before Lukashenka’s official visit to Belgrade, the Belarusian leader gave an interview to Serbian state media journalists. “Belarus, through Serbia, can enter the whole market of the Balkans and southern countries of the EU, and Serbia through Belarus can enter the market of the Eurasian Economic Community”, the coverage noted.

Domestic Politics

Regional Cooperation and Great Potential of the Eurasian Union. The Belarusian leader met with the chairwoman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation, Valentina Matviyenko, at a regional cooperation forum.

One of the participants, Yevgeny Savchenko, the governor of Belgograd Oblast in Russia, enthusiastically commented upon the Eurasian project’s future: “with our potential, that of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, but also Ukraine, which will join it sooner or later, we can feed half a billion people”. Savchenko also advocated for the expansion of exports into new markets.

Matviyenko also praised the Belarusian leader for his organisation of the Ice Hockey World Championship. She emphasised that in the opinion of experts and the Ice Hockey Federation, the event turned to be the best in the history of the ice hockey tournament.

The Eurasian Union: A New Centre of Power. During the same interview the Belarusian leader also commented upon Belarus-EU relations. “Why should I get offended by the West? I do understand what they want from me and what they want from Belarus. I will never agree to let them be the boss here”, he asserted strongly.

In his opinion, Belarus is maintaining its stability and that it is “much more important than going to the EU and smiling at one another”, he added. The Eurasian Union has become a ‘new centre of power’ and a ‘step to a multi-polarity in world order’. In Lukashenka's opinion, the organisation is attracting more and more countries all the time.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials available on the web site of Belarusian State Television 1 (BT1). Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.

Paula Borowska is an analyst of the Ostrogorski Centre. Originally from Bialystok, she studied at the University of Gdansk and the University of Bologna.

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