2015 Annual Report, Russian Airbase, Economic Reforms – Ostrogorski Centre Digest
The economy of Belarus shows a long-term negative trend. The need for structural reforms looks obvious even within the elite, and this need for structural reforms is desired especially by international creditors. In the political and military realm, Minsk struggles with Russia’s attempts to influence it.
As Alieś Aliachnovič shows in his piece, the authorities are not ready for large-scale market reforms, but rather slow and partial structural reforms appear inevitable. This is because creditors will monitor the progress of reforms before agreeing to pay the next tranche of funds.
Igar Gubarevich analyses the acceleration of Belarus-US contacts and concludes that the United States no longer regards Lukashenka as a Russian puppet. In order to contain Russia’s growing assertiveness in the region and beyond, the United States may help Lukashenka reduce economic dependence on Russia by assisting with securing an IMF loan and facilitating more trade and investment.
Siarhei Bohdan argues that the Kremlin is pushing for an airbase in Belarus for political, not military reasons. It seeks to eliminate any vestiges of Belarusian neutrality, which Minsk had built up in the past decade, by distancing itself from numerous Russian policies and looking for alternative partners.
Ostrogorski Centre Annual Report
The Ostrogorski Centre has published its annual report highlighting the main achievements in 2015 and its plans for the future. In 2015, the centre expanded its leadership team and established new partnerships.
The Centre launched BelarusPolicy.com, a research database in cooperation with the Belarus Research Council and expanded BelarusProfile.com. It is about to release the 2015 issue of the Journal of Belarusian Studies.
Analysts at the Centre organised and participated in several Belarus related events in Minsk, Vilnius, London, Berlin and other place. This helped the centre increase its presence in Belarusian and foreign media. The report describes this in detail, with pictures and charts.
Over the next two weeks, the Centre plans to launch a fundraising campaign to support Belarus Digest and its other projects.
Comments for the Media
Yarik Kryvoi in an interview for the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty comments on the recent warming in Belarus–EU relations and the EU’s apparent shift of focus from democracy to the security agenda. He also touched upon the redlines which Minsk does not want to cross in its relations with Russia.
Polish Radio talks to Igar Gubarevich about the Belarusian authorities latest steps in expanding the countries’ exports to traditional and new markets. Minsk tries to boost trade with a wide range of countries, but its efforts may not prove effective because of administrative methods and the kinds of produce that Minsk tries to sell.
Siarhei Bohdan comments to Polish Radio about recent trends in Belarus’ security situation. After the change in the wider-region’s security situation Minsk has started to distance itself from Moscow and seek partners in other parts of the world. Besides, Belarus gives more attention to its army and develops its own weapons instead of buying Russian ones.
Igar Gubarevich talks to Belarusian Radio Racja about Belarus’ chances of profiting from the suspension of air traffic between Ukraine and Russia and possible Russian pressure. Belarus has enough capacity to connect Russia and Ukraine, and will not stop benefiting even if Russia were to desire such an outcome.
Siarhei Bohdan discusses in RFE/RL’s Belarusian Service programme the recent developments in Syria’s civil war and Minsk’s policy in the region. Belarus has for a long time taken the approach of its US allies in the Syrian conflict, and reacted very cautiously to Russian-Turkey tensions over a downed jet. Importantly, the Russian South Stream pipeline project involving Turkey now seems unrealistic, and Belarus may become the host for another pipeline to Europe.
The BelarusProfile.com database now includes the following personalities: Dzmitryj Kruty, AliaksandrZabaroŭski, Dzmitry Babicki, Elena Korosteleva, Andrej Jelisiejeŭ, Lieanid Zaika, Andrej Laŭruchin, Anatoĺ Michajlaŭ, Mikita Bialiajeŭ, Vadzim Smok.
We have also updated the profiles of Taras Nadoĺny, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, Michail Orda, Aliena Kupčyna, Juryj Čyž, Aliaksiej Vahanaŭ, Ina Miadzviedzieva, Piotr Mamanovič, Stanislaŭ Zaś, Andrej Raŭkoŭ, Siarhiej Kaliakin, Iryna Kanhro, Anatoĺ Kapski, Viktar Karankievič, Dzmitry Kaciarynič, Tadevuš Kandrusievič, Uladzimir Kanaplioŭ, Natallia Kačanava, Aliaksandr Kaškievič, Vitaĺ Voŭk.
The Ostrogorski Centre continues to update the database of policy papers on BelarusPolicy.com. The papers of partner institutions added this month include:
- Strategic Thought team. Recommendations to the program of the socio-economic development of Homieĺ region in 2016-2020. Strategic Thought, 2015.
- Uladzimir Akulich, Uladzimir Valetka, Sierž Naŭrodski, Anastasija Charnushevich, Darya Sushkevich. The second issue of Macroeconomic Review of Belarus in graphs (January-June 2015). CASE Belarus, 2015.
- Uladzimir Akulich, Uladzimir Valetka, Sierž Naŭrodski, Anastasija Charnushevich, Julija Trus. The third issue of Macroeconomic Review of Belarus in graphs (January-September 2015). CASE Belarus, 2015.
- Aleksander Avtushko-Sikorskiy, Vladimir Artyugin, Aliaksei Lashuk, Dzianis Melyantsou, Jury Chavusau. Semi-annual monitoring of the main trends BISS-Trends (January – June 2014). BISS. Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, 2014.
- Aleksander Avtushko-Sikorskiy, Vladimir Artyugin, Aliaksei Lashuk, Dzianis Melyantsou, Jury Chavusau. Semi-annual monitoring of the main trends BISS-Trends (July – December 2014). BISS. Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies, 2015.
Any partner organisation of BelarusPolicy.com can submit its research for inclusion onto the database by completing this form.
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Love And Solidarity March, Young Belarusians Against Corruption – Belarus Civil Society Digest
Do many Belarusian women participate in politics? – was discussed at a conference Women in Political Life in Belarus.
Belarusian students organised ‘Love and Solidarity March’ in Minsk. They protested against introduction of fees for retaking of exams.
Young Belarusians against corruption – the platform Talaka.by together with UNDP launched a youth competition of short video scenarios on combating corruption.
Public Debates and Conferences
Conference on women participation in politics. On 15 November the Women's Network Mara/Dream and the BPF Women's Commission organised a conference titled as Women in Political Life in Belarus. The conference was aimed at discussing the role of women in the Belarusian politics and announcing Mara's plans to promote participation of women in the parliamentary election campaign in 2016. The conference was attended by Olga Abramova, a former MP, Nina Stuzhinskaya, Tatiana Karatkevich, candidate for the presidency in 2015, etc.
Prospects of local border traffic discussed in Grodno. On 20 November Grodno hosted a round table "Local Border Traffic On the Eastern Borders of the European Union: Case Belarus" organized by the Vecherni Grodno newspaper and the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) in partnership with ODB Brussels and the Visa Facilitation and Development Centre. The experts shared their views on prospects of local border traffic development between Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland.
Forum of Entrepreneurs scheduled for 14 December. Head of Perspectiva NGO, Anatoly Shumchanka personally invited Deputy Minister of Economy to attend the event. The Forum will be held in a critical situation for individual entrepreneurs – from 1 January 2016, entrepreneurs selling uncertified imported goods will be sentenced to administrative liability.
Break the Chain of Corruption Competition of scenarios. The platform Talaka.by together with UNDP launched a youth competition of short video scenarios on combating corruption. Young people who are under 35 and desire to change the world around for the better are invited to participate. The winner will be invited to participate in the filming of his/her movie scenario, and receive a prize of 5 million BYR (about $270). Deadline is 6 December.
Students organized ‘love and solidarity march’ in Minsk. On 2 December Belarusian students gathered at ‘a love and solidarity march’ in Minsk. The idea has been reported in social networks. "This is our chance to show the university administration and the Ministry of Education that we demand real reforms in the higher education instead of trying to conceal their failure behind ‘fines and extortion’.
The UN in Belarus has launched a 28-day campaign Inclusive Belarus: Sustainable Development Goals for All. The campaign (hashtag #InclusiveBelarus) aims to raise awareness about fight against fear and stigma, and give hope and opportunity to those who feel excluded from the world they live in every day. For instance, on 4 December the National Library of Belarus will be illuminated in orange as a sign of the fight against violence against women and girls.
The petition to make Minsk city budget open. Kosht Urada project, SYMPA and BIPART offer to Minsk City Executive Committee and the Ministry of Finance to make available quarterly or monthly budget reports of Minsk since 1 January 2016. This information would allow Minsk residents to understand what are the main sources of budget and how funds are spent. All supporters are invited to sign a relevant online petition.
"Invincible Marynich" in Vilnius. The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House invites to the presentation of the book by Belarusian journalist Aliaksandr Tamkovich "Invincible Marynich". Presentation of a book on Mikhail Marynich, Belarusian diplomat and a political prisoner, was held on 1 December at the Barys Zvozskau Belarusian HRH in Vilnius.
The 6th Social Weekend's finale took place on 21 November in Minsk, and was attended by 70-80 people. Twelve out of 15 finalists got local support for their ideas for a total amount of $20,000. The Grand Prix went to purchasing sport wheelchairs for children, among other winners – education for autistic children, Belarusian language online game, etc. The contest of social projects is organised by MaeSens platform together with the Office for European Expertise and Communications (OEEC).
TEDx in Minsk. On 21 November Minsk hosted a conference of TEDx format on the topic Changes, that Change Us. Nine speakers spoke about their work, motivation, success – how to implement wishes into reality. Kyky.org journal recorded the most interesting quotes of TEDxNiamiha; one of them is in the title of the article – "People who have a passionate dream, live 7-10 years longer than the others."
Interaction between State and Civil Society
Another death sentence handed down in Grodno. On 20 November the Grodno Regional Court has sentenced to death a resident of Lida district Ivan Kulesh. A 28-year-old man was accused of committing three murders, theft and robbery. He is at least the second person to receive the death sentence in 2015. The European Union urges Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to join a global moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition.
12 charged over protest staged to mark 1996 referendum anniversary. Twelve persons, including three journalists and two observers, have been charged with illegal picketing as a result of a demonstration held on 24 November in central Minsk to mark the 19th anniversary of the 1996 referendum, that dramatically increased president Lukashenka’s power. The protest was announced by former political prisoner Mikalai Statkevich and gathered around one hundred people.
Minsk activists offer the mayor to create a public council. The proposal to create a public council on urban planning at the Minsk city municipality was emerged during a public discussion of the general plan of Minsk, which took place in October-November. In early November, active citizens and representatives of initiative groups handed over to the Minsk authorities 60 pages of comments and suggestions to the general plan.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.