Second Annual London Conference, growing Belarus-Russia tension, Bologna process – Ostrogorski Centre digest

The 2nd London Annual Conference on Belarusian Studies. Photo: Y. Kryvoi

The Ostrogorski Centre co-organised the Second Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies in cooperation with University College London and the Belarusian Francis Skaryna Library and Museum.

In February, analysts of the Ostrogorski Centre discussed Russia’s attempts to destabilise the region around Belarus, the possibility of Moscow toppling Lukashenka, and the outcomes of Belarusian foreign policy in 2016.

The Centre has also released an analytical paper entitled ‘Challenges to Belarus joining the European Higher Education Area’, which resulted from the Fourth Annual Dutch-Belarusian-Polish Conference.

Second Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies

On Saturday 25 February, the Second Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies was organised by the Ostrogorski Centre in cooperation with University College London and the Belarusian Francis Skaryna Library and Museum.

Speakers from Belarus, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, the United States, and other countries presented and discussed Belarus-related research. The conference panels covered Francis Skaryna’s work and legacy, problems of Belarusian national identity, foreign policy of Belarus and comparative politics, social and political movements, and language and literature.

The main conference was followed by the Annual Lecture on Belarusian Studies, delivered by Dr Ales Susha, Deputy Director of the National Library of Belarus and Chairman of the International Association of Belarusian Language and Culture Specialists.

All conference presentations will be uploaded online in podcast form and selected papers from the conference will be published in the Journal of Belarusian Studies.

The conference programme is available here and pictures from the event are here.

Analytics

Siarhei Bohdan analyses Moscow’s actions to erect a border with Belarus and undermine its links with Ukraine and the Baltics. Russia accuses the West and its allies in the region of undermining links between Eastern European countries. However, its own policies pursue exactly the same aim. Minsk must fight hard to resist these efforts by the Kremlin.

Igar Gubarevich provides an overview of Belarusian diplomacy's achievements and failures in 2016. In 2016, Belarusian diplomats succeeded in getting rid of most Western sanctions, improving the international legitimacy of the national parliament, regularising dialogue with Europe, and converting Poland from a strong critic into a reliable partner. Nevertheless, they failed to make Lukashenka fully presentable to his peers in Europe, alienated Ukraine’s political elite, botched export growth and diversification of the export market, and turned Lithuania from a supporter into a foe.

Ryhor Astapenia discusses whether scenarios in which the Kremlin attempts to topple Lukashenka are possible. Recently, rhetoric surrounding Russian-Belarusian relations has become so sharp that some journalists and analysts believe the Kremlin plans to overthrow Aliaksandr Lukashenka or occupy Belarus. However, off and on conflict remain a fixture of Belarusian-Russian relations. Despite belligerent grumbling, Lukashenka mostly upholds the Kremlin's interests, promoting cooperation between the two countries.

Analytical paper: Challenges to Belarus joining the European Higher Education Area

The Ostrogorski Centre releases an analytical paper which resulted from the Fourth Annual Dutch-Belarusian-Polish Conference 'Education as a Human Right: Modernising Higher Education to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century'.

In 2015, Belarus joined the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and committed to putting a Roadmap for higher education reform into effect by 2018. The implementation of the Roadmap is running behind schedule, which poses a threat to the fulfilment of Belarus's obligations by the due date.

The paper released analyses of the main challenges to implementation of the Roadmap in Belarus; it also provides recommendations which could help to fulfil commitments on time and benefit a wider range of stakeholders.

Comments in the media

On Polish radio, Siarhei Bohdan discusses the process of destabilisation around Belarus caused by Russian politics. Moscow has erected a border with Belarus where it never existed before, and tries to curtail Belarusian exports via Baltic ports. Russia accuses the EU of destabilising the region, but actively does so itself. Fragmentation of the region will lead to its impoverishment, Siarhei argues.

Alesia Rudnik discusses the recent political graffiti cases on Polish radio. Political graffiti can be seen as a new form of civic participation which attracts the attention of the public and the media, while the authorities see the phenomenon as a threat.

Ryhor Astapenia comments on the latest developments in Belarusian-Russian relations for the Polish news portal Wirtualna Polska. Contrary to the disinformation of some Russian media sources, Lukashenka does not intend to leave the Eurasian Economic Union and CSTO. However, this does not mean he wants to pursue further military or political integration. Instead, he focuses mostly on the economic aspect.

The website The Conflict Comment quotes Igar Gubarevich in an article about the Russia-Belarus energy dispute. According to Igar, both parties have leverage in this dispute and both are interested in finding an accommodating solution, as was the case on many other occasions. Belarus remains of strategic importance to Russia, both as a trading partner and as a demarcation line for NATO and the EU.

Vadzim Smok discusses whether Belarus stands a chance in a new oil war with Russia on Polish radio. Oil products remain Belarus's No.1 export commodity, making up a third of Belarus's export revenues. With no alternative options for hydrocarbon supplies and Minsk's decreasing political and security leverage, the country will have to play by Moscow's rules.

The British newspaper The Independent quotes Igar Gubarevich in an article about the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster. According to Igar, Belarus avoids drawing public attention to the legacy of Chernobyl for two main reasons. The image of a contaminated country might hamper its efforts to promote exports and attract foreign investment, and it may be at odds with the government’s newly adopted policy of pursuing nuclear energy by building the BelNPP.

Belarus profile

The BelarusProfile.com database now includes the following people: Vitaŭt Rudnik, Alesia Rudnik, Andrej Paŭliučenka, Kaciaryna Siniuk, Anatoĺ Lappo, Dzmitryj Kaliečyc, Uladzimir Aŭhuscinski, Aliaksandr Center, Andrej Bryšcielieŭ, and Siarhiej Savicki.

We have also updated the profiles of Viktar Šynkievič, Siarhiej Pisaryk, Ihar Buzoŭski, Michail Žuraŭkoŭ, Lieanid Maĺcaŭ, Vasiĺ Žarko, Marat Afanaśjeŭ, Aliaksiej Pikulik, Uladzimir Tracciakoŭ, Ivan Dziemidovič, Ivan Žarski, Ihar Vojtaŭ, Aliaksandr Zabaroŭski, and Dzmitryj Kruty.

Belarus policy

The Ostrogorski Centre continues to update its database of policy papers on BelarusPolicy.com. The papers of partner institutions added this month include:

Yaraslau Pryhodzich. The anatomy of Belarusian joint stock companies. BEROC, 2017.

Aliaksandr Autushka-Sikorski, Alena Artsiomenka. Work of the High Technology Park: a threefold increase in exports of IT services and what would happen if the park is closed. BISS, 2017.

Vadzim Smok. Challenges to Belarus joining the European Higher Education Area. Ostrogorski Centre, 2017.

Uladzimir Akulich, Yuliya Yafimenka, Uladzislau Ramaniuk, Katsiaryna Aleksiatovich, Viktoriya Smalenskaya, Ales Alachnovič, Sierž Naŭrodski. 8th issue of the Macroeconomic Review of Belarus (4th quarter 2016). CASE-Belarus, 2017.

Think tanks in Belarus are encouraged to submit their research for inclusion into the database by completing this form.

The Ostrogorski Centre is a private, non-profit organisation dedicated to analysis and policy advocacy on problems which Belarus faces in its transition to market economy and the rule of law. Its projects include Belarus Digest, the Journal of Belarusian Studies, BelarusPolicy.com, BelarusProfile.com and Ostro.by.

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