New Orthodox Patriarch, The Future of the Customs Union, New Year Wishes - Belarus State TV Digest

The Eurovision Song Contest became the number one event in terms of the frequency of its coverage on Belarusian state Channel 1. 

Belarusian state journalists also afforded viewers a lot of coverage on integration with the Customs Union and other Eurasian structures. 

The appointment of patriarch Pavel, the new head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, attracted less attention on state TV than in the independent media.  State TV journalists presented the new patriarch enthusiastically and emphasised that this choice would strengthen the spiritual roots of Belarus.

State TV also proudly reported on the launching of three new logistic centres on the Belarus border with Lithuania and Poland. The centres are supposed to significantly cut border queues with their streamlined services.

Society

A new Orthodox patriarch will protect the spiritual legacy of RusBelarusian state TV enthusiastically reported the first service in Minsk of the newly elected head of the Orthodox Church. The journalist pointed out that both previous patriarch, Filaret, and the new one know each well.

The previous work of Patriarch Pavel has been of an international character, TV proudly noted. He was last in Belarus in 2013 as a participant in a conference on the original baptism of Rus and its impact on the nations of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. The news segment added that the selection of the new patriarch is of a somewhat prophetic nature. “The destiny of the Orthodox Church in Belarus is in the hands of the new patriarch Pavel”, the journalist commented.

In the words of Lukashenka, the Orthodox Church's “constructive position allows the citizens of our countries to preserve their loyalty to the true historical roots and protect the proper legacy of our ancestors". He also emphasised that the Orthodox Church supports the integration processes that are taking place in the post-Soviet space.

Authorities officially congratulated the newly patriarch PavelIn his open letter, Lukashenka underscores the role of the Orthodox Church in Belarus. He made mention that the mutual relations between the Orthodox Church and the state remain that of a partnership. Both parties will continue to conduct a constructive dialogue aimed at solving important social issues facing Belarus today.

New Year wishes to BelarusiansAs is tradition on New Year's Eve, the Belarusian head of state gives a short speech on national television. The Belarusian audience were told about the state's successful activities in helping to stimulate positive demographic trends and building new homes. He went on at great length about the motherland, being able breathe freely and being the master of one’s own life.

According to Lukashenka, the construction of a power plant in Astraviec, and also the high volume of Belarusian exports proved that the state has accomplished many of the goals it set for itself over the past year. Furthermore, 2013 was year in which Belarus witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of marriages and births.

Domestic Affairs

Development of the country in 2014. Belarusian state TV briefly reported that Lukashenka had signed off on several documents related to the nation's plans for development in 2014. On the agenda appeared several items including increasing GDP by 3.3%, attracting more foreign direct investment in Belarus, and the state's continued support for housing construction.   

Minsk has become an important political actor. State TV commented upon the Belarus' holding of the presidency in the Commonwealth of Independent States. During its presidency the parties initiated and agreed upon 70 new projects, as the anchor proudly pointed out. Minsk has become known as a city where some of the world's top leaders make serious decisions. “Will Ukraine be able to fulfil its duty when it takes over the presidency?”, the state TV news anchor asked. Kiev’s rapprochement with the EU could disturb its performance in the organisation.

Logistic centres on Belarus' borders. Belarus' does not sufficiently use its transit potential, state TV notes. The Belarusian authorities will support trade through three new logistic centres on its borders with Poland and Lithuania. This unique project will cut the traffic on its borders by up to 30%. The pricetag for the investment was 800bn BYR. Despite its high cost, the news underscored the fact that experts have also praised the project for its ability to better utilise the transit capacity of Belarus.

Foreign Affairs

New currency in Euro-sceptic Latvia. Beginning 1 January 2013 Latvia will officially be using the Euro as its own currency, becoming the 18th EU country to do so. Belarusian State TV notes that according to experts many Latvians remained rather sceptical about joining the European Union. The main reason being that “many people still remember that some EU-member states using the Euro were forced to ask for financial support after the crisis in 2009”, as the anchor explained.

 “Unpleasant Christmas gift for the European Union”. State TV reports that the international rating agency, Standard & Poor’s, has decreased the long-term credit rating of the European Union, having ranked its short-term credit rating as “stable”. They noted that, “the locomotives of the EU, such as Germany and France,” could easily achieve a high ranking on their own. However, the EU as a single entity with all of its 28 member states is not able to perform well economically.

Putin, Lukashenka and Nazarbaev discuss the future of the Eurasian UnionChannel 1 also provided extensive coverage to the “productive meeting” of the leaders of the Eurasian Union's three member states, an event which took place in Moscow. Nikolai Azarov, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, as well as the president of Kyrgyzstan also participated in the event. “They reached a mutual understanding practically on all issues [discussed]”, journalist commented. The officials also discussed a road map for Armenia and its membership in the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Community.

In its coverage, state TV emphasised the significance of the previous summit in Minsk. The heads of states addressed a number of issues relating to the process of integration. The countries removed nearly all barriers in their markets and two more countries, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, have since expressed their interest in participating in the integration project.

State TV showed Lukashenka’s elevated position at the Moscow’s meeting. The Belurasian ruler emphasised his support for the idea of integration and, at the same time, in rather harsh words, he named and criticised certain areas that need to be improved upon. He mentioned the need to clarify issues surrounding the union's formal hierarchy, its relation to each nation's domestic laws and establishing guidelines for holding positions its governing organs.

It was also reported that the Customs Union has already brought in money into each of the three member nation's economies at a time when when the world’s economy suffering. In the words of Presidend of Kazakhstan Nazarbaev the Eurasian Union is not a restoration of the Soviet Union, but is rather a project of innovation. “We are moving forward, not backwards.”

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.

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