Negotiating Gas Prices, Olympic Failure, Engaging the Diaspora – State Press Digest
Belarus struggles to obtain favourable oil and gas prices and considers alternative suppliers, as it has in the past with Venezuela and Azerbaijan. Belarus will host a mission from the IAEA and hold stress tests to satisfy Lithuanian concerns regarding the safety of Astraviec NPP.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs holds a consultative council of the Belarusian diaspora, trying to engage Belarusians living abroad in activity for the benefit of the Belarusian state. The government discusses the worst Olympic performance from Belarusian athletes in history and suggests ways to improve the situation.
This and more in the new edition of State Press Digest.
Belarus struggles to obtain favourable oil and gas prices. On 12 September Aliaksandr Lukashenka ordered negotiations for the supply of hydrocarbons from Russia to be finalised in two days, writes Belarus Segodnya. The two sides are now considering three approaches to pricing. The option most acceptable to Minsk supposes pricing equal to the European export price excluding duties and transportation expenses. The second option is the Russian domestic price under certain (unknown) conditions. The third is based on subsidising the Belarusian budget.
Lukashenka also required that the government works out alternative sources of hydrocarbon supplies, as Belarus has done in the past with Venezuela and Azerbaijan. According to Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Siamaška, the government already has ideas on that account.
Belarus will allow safety tests and foreign missions to inspect the nuclear power plant. A second round of the Belarusian-Lithuanian talks on the construction of the nuclear power plant has ended, reports Belarus Segodnya. Due to Lithuania's safety concerns, Belarus has requested that the IAEA carry out a special mission to evaluate the NPP construction site. Belarus will hold stress tests of the NPP in Astraviec. In addition to the mission, a European Commission delegation will visit the construction site.
Belarus will not stop construction of the plant, as there have been no violations of international or national standards. Therefore, Belarus's neighbours must be willing to compromise: as President Lukashenka has recently proposed, Lithuania could consider joint use of the nuclear power.
Olympic failure shows a need for a deep reform in sports. Belarusian athletes gave their worst performance in Belarusian Olympic history at the recent Games in Rio. Belarus Segodnya reports on a joint meeting between the Ministry of Sports and Tourism and the National Olympic Committee; the meeting's purpose was to understand the reasons behind this failure and suggest ways of improving. According to the head of the Belarusian Swimming Federation Anatoĺ Tozik, internal squabbles are largely to blame. Rather than than training their teams, managers and coaches fight for funds backstage.
One initiative suggested that funding be granted only for those sports which Belarusian athletes had performed well in before. Other sports would only receive funds for the development of youth teams. Remunerations for performances at World Cups and other intermediate starts would be downgraded, as this can discourage preparation for the Olympics. The system of stipends for coaches would be altered to put an end to certain kinds of abuses.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs gathers a consultative council of the Belarusian diaspora. 33 representatives of the Belarusian diaspora from 22 countries arrived in Belarus to participate in the consultative council on the Belarusian diaspora, reports Holas Radzimy. The council was founded in 2015 as a platform for cooperation between the authorities and Belarusians living abroad. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makiej announced that the government has finally adopted a section entitled "Belarusians of the World" in the state programme for “Culture of Belarus in 2016-2020”. The programme offers financial support for the activities of Belarusian organisations abroad.
Makiej thanked those who promote the export of products manufactured in Belarus. "We plan to continue and expand the practise of inviting Belarusian businessmen from abroad to participate in various economic forums and trade fairs held in the country", the minister said.
Waste sorting plant is launched near Hrodna. The plant is capable of sorting 120,000 tonnes of waste annually, writes Hrodzienskaja Praŭda. In addition, 30,000 tonnes of separately collected waste will be collected from the city. The factory will employ about two hundred people, including chefs for maintenance of night shifts.
The plant was constructed by a Chinese company and funded by the World Bank. The World Bank also funds the second part of the project: the organisation of separately collected solid waste in Hrodna. This includes money for new types of containers and garbage trucks. Moreover, construction of the plant necessitates improvement of the solid waste collection system. The city will expand the existing container sites, build new ones and close garbage chutes in block houses during 2017.
Belarus-Finland economic forum took place in Homiel. A delegation of representatives of 40 Finnish companies headed by Finnish Deputy Secretary of State Matti Antonnen arrived in Homiel to participate in a bilateral economic forum. Currently 30 companies with Finnish capital operate in Belarus, writes Gomelskie Vedomosti. Over the last five years Finns have brought about $140m of direct investment to the Belarusian economy.
“One of the largest priorities in Finland today is clean energy and waste processing. We intend to explore this area in your country. In addition, we are interested in setting up joint ventures in areas such as agriculture and the IT sector”, said Chairman of the Board of the Belarusian-Finnish Chamber of Commerce Juha Hamalainen. An important factor for cooperation with Belarus is its membership in the Eurasian economic Union, which opens vast markets in Russia and Kazakhstan to investors.
Student self-government in Belarus is effective. Znamya Yunosti gathers student representatives from leading Belarusian universities to discuss student-self-government in Belarus. The correspondent surveyed a few dozen students and none of them had heard of self-government at their Alma Mater.
However, representatives claim that they participate in all spheres of universities decision-making, including the educational process and curriculum, distribution of stipends and scientific activity. This happens through the Councils of Faculties and the general University Councils where they have seats.
The State Press Digest is based on review of state-controlled publications in Belarus. 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.