Green Men, Western Assistance, 5 Years of Belarusian Web - Digest of Belarusian Analytics

Andrei Aliaksandrau. Photo: EuroBelarus Information Service.

EU foreign policy towards Belarus, who pays for journalism, the new martial law and Western assistance to Belarus are among the topics which kept Belarusian analysts busy recently. 

Foreign Policy

Rethinking the EU Policies Towards Belarus – Andrei Liakhovich, the Director of the Centre for Political Education in Minsk, believes that relations with Belarus are not a pressing issue of EU foreign policy. While the EU has leverage over Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime, it does not use it, as it fears pushing Belarus more towards Russia. Such fears are groundless. Lukashenka’s regime will not cross the dangerous line of integration with Russia under any circumstances.

Belarus’s Rising International Standing and Its Implications – Grigory Ioffe believes that renewed high-level negotiations on the war in Ukraine, with an agreement signed in Minsk, on February 12, further raise the stature of Belarus in the eyes of the international community.  In particular, the Belarusian president has sought to maintain close ties with both Russia and Ukraine while steadfastly appealing to Western leaders to abandon their increasingly contradictory policy of sanctions toward Belarus.

Russian Ruble's Hapless Little Brother – The worst-performing currency in the world so far this year is called the ruble, but it's not Russian. It's the legal tender of Belarus, a country increasingly uncomfortable with its too-close alliance with Russia. The small nation's latest bout of economic difficulties shows Russian President's vision of a Eurasian Economic Union - a partial recreation of the Soviet Union as a tight, European Union-like economic alliance with Russia at its center - makes little sense for its members, according to the Bloomberg View.

Media Sphere 

Andrei Aliaksandrau: Every Internet User Can Fund Journalism – State media in Belarus are funded from the state budget, while independent media are supported from abroad. It appears that Belarusian society basically doesn’t pay for the domestic journalism. 'Who is going to pay for high-quality journalism?' was the topic of the open lecture by Andrei Aliaksandrau, Belarusian journalist, that took place in December. The meeting happened within the frames of the 'Main question' cycle.

Five Years of Belarusian Web – Mikhail Darashevich, manager of Gemius in Belarus, analyzes figures of Internet development in Belarus for the last five years. Namely, from December 2009 to December 2014, the Belarus online audience has risen by 65.5% or from 3.023 million to 5.004 people. The retired people group has risen from 1.28% to 5.56%; however, this is extremely little as compared to the whole Belarusian society. The number of daily users has grown from 72.70% to 82.73% of the whole Internet audience.

Environment in the Media Mirror – the Center for European Transformation presents the results of research on covering environmental issues and activities of environmental organisations by Belarusian media. One of the recommendations of the study is the necessity for CSOs to establish their own news services, press secretaries, PR-manager, responsible for communication with the media. The lack of professionalism of CSOs (and the "greens" in particular) when dealing with the media was marked by almost all respondents from among journalists. The study was carried out on the initiative of the Green Alliance.

Human Rights and Security

Monitoring of the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus: October-December 2014– A group of Belarusian CSOs has released a regular monitoring aimed at highlighting short-term tendencies in the spheres of human rights, social, political and economic situation in Belarus. Namely, during 2014, 84 public associations, 12 funds and 40 private institutions were registered. Compared with 2013, the number of newly registered CSOs remains at the 2013 level but it is significantly lower than in 2010-2012, when over a hundred new public associations were registered annually.

Martial Law. In Search of Green Men – Dzianis Melyantsou, BISS, explains a new law ‘On Martial Law’, which became the subject of public discussions. Some media and experts consider the law as a trail of Ukrainian events and the desire of the Belarusian authorities to take into account this experience to prevent Russian aggression. Melyantsou argues that the new law is more adapted to the allied commitments of Belarus in the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), rather than anticipate a conflict with Russia.

Other

Ten Facts about Western Assistance to Belarus – Hanna Sous', Radio Svaboda journalist, conducted an investigation on the foreign aid for Belarus. In particular, the Belarusian state is a major recipient of western aid; only 12-20% of the total amount directed to the development of civil society. The European Union is the largest donor; the EU institutions spend on the development of democracy in Belarus 13% of the total aid, while U.S. - 71%.

Ioffe presents new book on Belarus. Grigory Ioffe, professor at Redford University (Virginia, United States) presented his second book about Belarus entitled Reassessing Lukashenka at the National Library on Belarus. The work is based on a number of personal interviews with the Belarusian head of state. The supplement makes up a quarter of the book. Reading transcripts of the interviews one can make his/her own opinion of the Belarusian leader. According to the writer, the book is aimed at challenging the clichés in respect to Belarus and its leader.

Dates of the Fifth International Congress of Belarusian Studies are announced. The largest Belarusian academic event will be held on 2-4 October 2014. The Congress will gather around 400 scholars and experts from Belarus and abroad. Traditionally, the Congress will include discussions, presentations, and the ceremony of Award for the Best Academic Publication in 2013-2014. Proposals for organisation of Congress panels and sections can be submitted till 12 March.

From 2014 into 2015: an Attempt to Avoid the Regional Crisis via Administrative Measures – Belarus in Focus' Information Office presents the Belarus in Focus Annual Review 2014. The review covers the political and economic situation in Belarus in 2014, as well as forecasts for the coming year. Namely, the experts note that Belarus is entering 2015 with a major currency crisis and a significant turnover in government members.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.

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