A Letter to a European Friend - Digest of Belarusian Analytics

Siarhey Dubavets

The Belarusian expert community vigorously debated three topics last week: the EU-Belarus diplomatic conflict, the deepening dependence of Belarus upon Russia and capital punishment.

EU-Belarus Conflict

A Letter to a European Friend – Siarhey Dubavets uses physics terminology to make the point that by pressuring a substance, one cannot destroy it, but rather push the substance in any given direction. He argues that the EU policy of sanctions towards Belarus is pushing the country towards Russia instead of Europe. He questions why Europe is so focused on punishing the regime, forgetting to influence the people of Belarus. He thinks the most effective and cost-effective measure would be to open Europe to Belarusians and remove visa barriers. 

Strategies, Consequences of the Conflict with the EU: What will Happen to the Country and Us? – BISS analysts Alexei Pikulik and Denis Melyantsou continue to explore the diplomatic conflict between the EU and Belarus. Experts believe that the current situation could have really serious consequences for Belarus, so the most important thing now is to stop the escalation of the conflict and to reflect on possible ways to resolve it. Accordingly, analysts urge official Minsk and Brussels to make concessions, and the democratic opposition - to the internal agreement.

Europe’s Dubious Business Business with Belarus (text available for active subscribers only) - Yuri Jibladze (spokesman for the Committee on International Control over the Situation with Human Rights in Belarus) and WernerSchulz (a German Green MEP and member of the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee) wrote an op-ed for The European Voice, in which they argue that Europe must sever “the channels that the Lukashenko regime uses to finance itself”. The authors suggest that the EU’s sanctions have not halted abuses, failing in practical terms. On the contrary, they state that that Belarus exports to EU rose 221 per cent in 2011, exceeding exports to Russia. The authors seem to suggest that the EU should introduce targeted economic sanctions against “…a handful of de facto oligarchs…” and their companies, “…primarily those in important areas such as fertiliser production, steel and crude-oil processing”.

Belarus, EU Sanctions and the $1m Bounty – EUobserver notes that the EU capital is seeing an unprecedented amount of lobbying on Alexander Lukashenka's behalf before EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Friday 23 March. The website quotes a senior EU official who described the queue of NGOs, diplomats and companies telling him in recent weeks why billionaire Vladimir Peftivev should be excluded from the visa and economic sanctions list.

The Government is Dictated a Task: To Give Up Large National Business to Foreign Capital – Yuriy Shevtsov, a Belarusian political scientist, believes that EU sanctions against Belarusian businessmen are “an order” from interested representatives of foreign business structures. The author briefly examines the business interests of five Belarusian “tycoons” and argues that sanctions against them are a result of actions by their European competitors. 

Sergei Lisichenok: Other Countries Get Funds Instead of Belarus – coordinator of the National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, Sergei Lisichenok describes the possible positive results for ordinary citizens of Belarus' membership in the EaP programs of the "Eastern Partnership" . He also mentions the inconsistency of the EU conditionality. He recalls that first  the EU came up with 12 conditions, then they were cut down to 3-4 points and in the end seemed to disappear altogether.

Belarus-Russia Relations

Cracking Down, Cracking Up: Europe’s Last Dictator Relies Evermore Nervously on Russia for Support – The Economist publishes an article in which it lists the execution of the two men, found guilty in the metro bombing in Minsk, among a wider crackdown of the Belarusian government on the society. The article concludes that Russia is ready to extend support to Lukashenka at a higher price than simply an anti-Western stance, but that such support is unlikely to last forever.

Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index #6 – BISS presents a new issue of the Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index which covers January and February 2012. The focal points of the country’s foreign policy endeavour in this period were obviously the accession to the Common Economic Area (CEA) together with Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as the diplomatic scandal with the European Union that erupted at the end of February. Both events increase Belarus’ dependence on Russia and narrow the room for manoeuvre.

Belarus Monthly Economic Review #3 – The IPM Research Center presents Belarus Monthly Economic Review covering March 2012. The focal points of the Belarusian economy of this period are growth of dependence on Russia’s energy, new financing procedures for government programs, devaluation effect exhaustion, and reducation in exports to Russia.

Capital Punishment in Belarus 

Execution of terrorists makes Lukashenka more dependent on power forces – Solidarity with Belarus Information Office analysts consider that the refusal of Lukashenka to pardon Kovalev, who appealed with an appropriate request, implies the growing influence of the power elite on the President. At the same time, by upholding the execution, Lukashenka lost the opportunity to meet the interests of a significant part of the population, who distrust the official outcomes of the trial.

Losing Your Mind Over the Belarus Executions – a prominent provocative Russian journalist Yulia Latynina writes for the Moscow Times, commenting on the reaction of people to the execution of Dmitriy Konovalov and Vladislav Kovalev in Minsk. The author suggests that those who are against the death penalty and those who believe that Lukashenka is a dictator should never turn the fight for freedom into a fight to prove that a convicted maniac and killer is innocent.

Other topics

Elections Authorities Will Use the Lure of Political Reforms – Yauheni Preiherman discusses possible scenarios for the September parliamentary elections. The expert believes that one should not have hopes for political liberalisation and modernization. The parliamentary campaign of 2012 will be held under the baseline scenario, aimed at ensuring internal legitimacy of the election, as internal legitimacy is the main pillar of the political model of Belarus.

Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2012: Belarus Country Report – Bertelsmann Stiftung rolls out the BTI 2012 Belarus Country Report. Belarus received a high score in the “Stateness” category (monopoly on the use of force, state identity, basic administration etc). At the same time, on a scale from 0 to 10 (where 10 is the strongest) Bertelsmann’s scores Belarus at the level or slightly above 2 in such categories as stability of democratic institutions, political participation, private property and consensus building. Economic performance, socioeconomic level, welfare regime and sustainability received scored at the level or slightly below 6.

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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