Positive Coverage of the Ukrainian Elections, Public-Private Partnership - Belarus State TV Digest

Commenting on the recent presidential elections in Ukraine, Belarus state TV journalists noted how unique the elections were because people did not vote strictly along the East-West lines as they traditionally had in the past.

State TV journalists presented moderately positive views on the elections results in their coverage. They also noted the pro-European stance of the newly elected president. However, reporters also tended to emphasise the potential difficulties of receiving financial aid from the EU countries.

“A global document”, “historical moment”, “centre of regional developments” – are just some of the phrases that journalists employed while enthusiastically reporting on the signing of the Eurasian Union treaty.

"An exceptionally high attendance and a number of tourists" – the Ice Hockey World Championship has already come to a close and journalists sum up what Belarus has gained from hosting its first major international sporting event.

Ukraine

No British Aid for the Ukrainian EconomyThe newly elected head of state, Petro Poroshenko, is promising to rebuild the Ukrainian economy using foreign loans. He is also aiming to sign the economic part of the Association Agreement with the European Union in the near future as well.

State TV coverage points out that the British authorities have thus far declined to give financial aid to Ukraine. The reason behind this apparent decision is due to a lack of support among the citizens of Great Britain.

The Presidential Elections: Minsk's ReactionThe Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus has officially recognised the Ukrainian election results. State TV poured praise on the newly elected president pointing out that he had already made a few important statements, including the necessity of dialogue with Russia. Petro Poroshenko also supports Ukraine's integration with the EU.

The elections proved to be surprisingly fair, with a small number of incidents or complaints, according to the report. Even the major rival of Poroshenko, ex-prime minister Yulia Timoshenko, agreed that the elections were conducted in an open and free manner and is not challenging the results. 

These Elections Different than Those Before ThemThe newly elected Ukrainian leader gained around 55% of all of the votes. This makes him unique insofar as his margin of victory allowed him to win in one round. In contrast to previous presidential elections, Ukrainians did not vote along West-East lines for one or another candidate.

Poroshenko has to face several challenges, like re-establishing peace in the country's eastern regions. Another issue before the new president is solving the ongoing Russia-Ukraine gas dispute. The Ukrainian authorities believe that the new price for gas being asked for by Moscow is far too high.

Foreign Affairs

The Eurasian Union Treaty Agreement: Historical moment, a Global DocumentJournalists provided a great deal of coverage for the signing of the treaty in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital. Two more states, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, are also interested in becoming a part of the Eurasian Union.

The report took note of the fact that the initiative to push for Eurasian integration originated with Kazakhstani President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He suggested the creation of a common market for all three countries, Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus years before the project really got off the ground.

The pace of Eurasian economic integration is particularly surprising, according to state TV coverage, because it took only a few years to happen, “unlike [with] the Europeans who have lost decades over their's” – in the words of the journalist covering the story. The Eurasian Union is one the biggest integration projects worldwide, with a population of over 170 million people.

The Banderovtsy are NazisThe Russian Duma adopted a law making the symbolism of banderovtsy (Ukrainian nationalist activists of the World War II period) equivalent to that of the Nazi's. This includes any and all symbols or emblems of organisations which were said to have cooperated with the Nazis during WW2.

CIS as a Unique Platform for Constructive DialogueState TV journalists provided heavy coverage of the recent summit of member states from the Commonwealth of Independent States. State TV provides commentary on the historical reasons for the establishment of the organisation, stating “then it seemed completely absurd to break all of the cultural and purely human relations that had been evolving over past centuries”.

According to the report, at present the Commonwealth of Independent States remains the only organisation that allows its member states to work out solutions to any problems its countries have between themselves. Thanks to its membership, Belarus has an opportunity to play an important role as an intermediary between the CIS and EU member states.

Lukashenko-Medvedev Meet. The Belarusian leader commented on the scepticism of those who did not believe in the Eurasian Union ever coming into existence.  “We had many problems, questions which we were trying to decide: the supply of oil to Belarus, oil taxes, transportation (…) I have to say that all of the issues related to oil and gas have been dealt with at this point” – Lukashenka stated during the meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. He also pointed out the role that Dmitrii Medvedev played in helping find solutions to several controversial issues and pushing forward with the work that needed to be done before the agreement could be signed.

Domestic Politics

Plenty of Profits from the Ice Hockey World ChampionshipState TV praised the international sporting event that recently came to a close in Minsk. “Record attendance, a colossal TV audience, and as a result, financial dividends”, it stated. The championship had a record attendance of 651,861 people.

According to state TV, the visa-free regime combined with a wise price policy attracted a large number of foreign tourists. During the championship 420,000 litres of Belarusian beer was sold and over 80,000 tourists visited Belarus, they enthusiastically note. According to state TV's coverage, the success of the event is irrefutable and Belarus should consider trying to host the ice hockey championship again in several years.

Economics

Foreign Business in BelarusRecently, Minsk attracted not only the World Ice Hockey Championship fans, but also foreign investors. The head of state met with several potential investors, including representatives of several large European companies. An informal meeting was conducted in the format of an open dialogue. The meeting was very fruitiful and led to several Swiss-Belarusian projects being launched. Despite its apparent success, the Belarusian leader gave a precautionary statement to all of its participants about the golden rule of competitiveness - only the best win. 

State and Private Businesses Want to Cooperate More IntensivelyA congress on private-public business cooperation took place in Minsk. Intensification of this kind of cooperation will bring benefits not only to the state and to business, but also ordinary Belarusians..

“One general European trend has also reached Belarus – mutual cooperation between private business and the state. Our country is paying attention to the experience of countries like Switzerland, Russia, Great Britain and China”.

In the EU, 51% of all state-private business projects have an impact on society, including healthcare, education and social services. State TV is careful to point out that this cooperation does not translate into the privatisation of these services.

The intensification of state-private business cooperation helps to decrease the state's spending, but also attracts new investment to the country. A proper law regarding this issue will be submitted to the Belarusian parliament in June and a Belarusian delegation will go to Switzerland to learn more about successful state-business projects.

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.

Paula Borowska is an analyst of the Ostrogorski Centre. Originally from Bialystok, she studied at the University of Gdansk and the University of Bologna.

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