Oil from Azerbaijan, defence cooperation with Latvia - Belarus state press digest

Aliyev awards Lukashenka the Heydar Aliyev medal. Photo: sb.by

The EU expresses concern over the status of the death penalty in Belarus. Slovakia and Belarus aim for broader cooperation. Aliaksandr Lukashenka pursues an oil partnership with Azerbaijan. Belarus and Latvia conclude agreements in the defence sphere.

A delegation of the Belarusian Ministry of Education investigates the educational systems of Baltic and Scandinavian countries. Lukashenka announced amendments to the ‘social parasitism’ law. Viciebsk becomes the fifth Belarusian city to join the 'Inclusive Belarus' campaign.

This and more in the new edition of the Belarus state press digest.

Politics

The high representative of the EU warns Minsk about human rights situation. Federica Mogherini mentioned two recent cases of capital punishment and encouraged Belarus to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty, writes Belarus Segodnya. The Constitutional Court, however, responded that by preserving the death penalty Belarus guarantees safety for its citizens.

The statement of the Court also points to the exclusiveness of the death penalty. Belarus Segodnya reported that since the beginning of 2016 four people have been sentenced to death. The cases leading to capital punishment this year involved rape, murders, or theft. The newspaper points out that Belarusians voted to legalise the death penalty in the Referendum of 1996.

Belarus and Slovakia broaden cooperation. On 25 November Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico visited Belarus and met with Aliaksandr Lukashenka. The parties discussed bilateral and Belarus-EU relations. The Belarusian president highlighted the important role of Slovakia in Belarus-EU relations, reports The Minsk Times.

Fico and Lukashenka agreed to broaden cooperation in the medical, wood processing, and defence spheres. Fico expressed support for the socially-oriented policy of the Belarusian authorities and voiced his plan to return key privatised assets in Slovakia to state control. The Slovak Prime Minister also advised wider promotion of Belarus to European tourists.

Aliaksandr Lukashenka pursues oil partnership with Baku. Ilham Aliyev and Aliaksandr Lukashenka discussed bilateral cooperation in trade, agricultural, and culture. The two presidents aim to increase bilateral trade turnout to $700m by the end of next year, reports Belarus ​Segodnya. Lukashenka expressed his interest in establishing a long-term partnership with the Azerbaijani oil industry. As a result, Aliyev and Lukashenka signed several documents on bilateral cooperation. The president of Azerbaijan awarded Lukashenka the Heydar Aliyev medal.

Belarus and Latvia expand cooperation in defence. Belarusian Minister of Defence Andrej Raŭkoŭ has recently visited Latvia, writes Belarus Segodnya. Raŭkoŭ held talks with the Latvian Minister of Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The agreement signed during the negotiations will facilitate cooperation in the spheres of security and defence, air space and arms control, and environmental protection. Athletic and cultural events for Belarusian and Latvian military forces will also be organised. The Belarusian delegation also visited the Latvian National Defence Academy.

Economy

Belarus creates the first project office for export development. The office will work towards the improvement of the financial and legal base for foreign trade between Belarus, Russia, and other states. Zviazda reports that Deputy Prime Minister Vasiĺ Maciušeŭski will lead the office. Experts from the National Bank, Finance Ministry, Ministry of Economy, Foreign Affairs Ministry, and other agencies will be involved in its work. The office will produce ideas for increasing the turnover of Belarus and Russia and expanding export to markets of third countries.

Belarus postpones taxing 'social parasites'. The government is currently amending the presidential decree on social parasitism signed in April 2015. Belarus Segodnya cites a representative of the Ministry of Taxes and Duties: ‘By the end of the year the Ministry will clarify information regarding citizens included in the taxation database’.

According to the changes, alternative military servicemen, national sports team members, and citizens with difficult financial situations will be excluded from the list. By now, more than 73,000 citizens received notifications on paying the tax. As of 1 November 2016, 9,500 Belarusians already paid a ‘social parasite’ tax.

Society

Belarusian Ministry of Education studies the educational systems of the Baltic and Scandinavian countries. During their trip, a delegation of the Belarusian Education Ministry visited Vilnius, Tallinn, Helsinki, Tampere, and Goteborg, writes Hrodzienskaja Praŭda.

The Belarusian delegation met with the head of the Professional Education Department of Lithuania and the Director of National Qualifications of Estonia. In Tallinn, the delegation investigated the facilities and training programme of the Centre for Vocational Education in Estonia. They discussed hands-on learning, the labour market and employment of graduates, assessment of labour market needs, modernisation of qualifications and professions, and modern technological methods of education.

In Tampere, Finland, Belarusian representatives visited the Tredu Vocational College and discussed its structure, funding, management of educational institutions, and methods for improving quality of education. Finally, the delegation visited a vocational skills championship called Euroskills in Goteborg, Sweden.

Viciebsk joined the regional campaign 'Inclusive Belarus'. Aimed at sustainable development, the UN regional project promotes equality rights regardless of physical ability, age, ethnicity, and gender. All Belarusian regional centres except Minsk have already hosted 'Inclusive Belarus' events, Vitebskie Vesti reports. The event in Viciebsk included a movie screening, concerts, and an exhibition of handmade souvenirs from social care centres.

During the event, representatives from the local media, the Ministry of Information, and NGOs participated in a press-club 'barrier-free environment' which discussed the role of media in shaping the image of people with disabilities. Permanent UNDP representative Sanaka Samarasinha, the US chargé d'affaires in Belarus, and other diplomats also attended the event.

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.

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