Belarus as a “Failed State”? – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Belarusian analysts discuss the implications of the economic crises in Belarus which shakes the foundations of the Belarusian regime. Other topics include the trial of April 11 terrorist suspects and the need for dialogue between the West and Belarusian authorities.
The Konovalov-Kovalev trial will change public opinion on the death penalty – Publicist Siarhei Dubavets believes that the trial on the blast in the Minsk metro makes Belarusian society focus on the topic of death as something specific and personal. In circumstances when trust of governmental institutions, including courts, has been steadily decreasing, public opinion can change, and Belarusians will no longer support the death penalty.
Will Belarus be a “failed state”? – Georgy Plaschynski concludes that the Belarusian model of the welfare state appeared not to be viable. Its resources are too scarce to maintain an autonomous existence, which drastically differ from its neighbors. So the new government would not only have to deal with the consolidation of democracy, but also to respond to urgent social challenges.
Belarus: rebuilding canceled? – analyst Paval Usau believes that what is happening in Belarus is only a prelude to a long and painful process of political and socio-economic transformation. The authorities remain the dominant subject of the change. The opposition will, as always, remain a passive spectator of the processes. Its activity is reduced to the construction of new coalitions, disputes about the "dialogue" with the regime, participation or nonparticipation in the upcoming parliamentary elections, etc. Nevertheless, Usov is sure that revolution in Belarus is inevitable: “The only question is what it will be – the “velvet” or “iron”.
Continued pressure or an attempt to dialogue? – Roger Potocki, Director of the European Division of the National Endowment for Democracy, answers questions from Radio Free Europe. Potocki believes that dialogue between the West and Belarusian authorities is necessary. But the West should apply continuous pressure in order to contribute to this dialogue and develop a very concrete criteria to restore closer relations or financial support for the regime.
Belarus: an archaic society in the XXI century – Yuri Pshennik states that crisis in Belarus will not be overcome without real change. So it’s time to start and carry out structural reforms in the country, because measures such as devaluations or upgrading enterprises and even foreign borrowing will not save the country, but only prolong its agony.
Seventh issue of the BISS Trends – The Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) presented the seventh issue of BISS Trends – a quarterly monitoring of Belarus’s political, social and economic development. The resume is the following: the summer has failed to bring any good news, save for the pardon of some political prisoners. Nevertheless, there are prerequisites for normalization of the following trends: political liberalization and democratization, economic liberalization and geopolitical development in the next three months. Changes for the better are desparately needed due to the catastrophic economic situation in the country.
BISS: Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index №3 – a new issue of Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index covers all three summer months and analyzes five foreign policy vectors. The authors note that despite the traditional vacation season in the country, the foreign activity of Belarus was quite vigorous: the Customs Union started operating in full swing; the first steps were made towards a normalization of relations with the EU; an informal summit of the CSTO was held to address the future of the Collective Fast Response Forces. On the whole, relations in the framework of the foreign policy vectors that BISS analyzes have changed insignificantly. Nonetheless, there are serious prerequisites for changes in the first months of autumn.
What guarantees freedom of associations in Belarus? – Ulad Vialichka (EuroBelarus), Alena Tankachova (Center for Legal Transformation), Yury Chavusau (the NGO Assembly), and Volha Smalyanka (Center for Legal Transformation) discuss the conditions – the "road map" – for the promotion of the legal and political guarantees of freedom of association in Belarus. In addition, Alena Tonkacheva notes that today a third sector has the "political voice" to articulate the demands of civil society at the level of European institutions, which in their turn could send the demands back to Belarusian officials.
What education are Belarusians in need of? – Dzmitry Karpievich, the representative of the organizing committee of the Week of Informal Education and Head of the Association of Long Life Education, states that the offer of educational programs for adults continues to be concentrated mainly in Minsk. However, the main problem is an undeveloped culture of life-long education in Belarus so there is no demand for education that is not directly related to professional development that could enhance the competitiveness of a person in the labor market. Karpievich is sure that NGOs are ready to meet the demand for high quality training programs, but difficult framework conditions do not allow them to develop.
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.
Authorities Target Recipients of Foreign Aid – Politics and Civil Society Digest
Belarusian authorities increasingly target those who receive financial support from international and foreign donors. Years ago they cut off virtually all sources of domestic financial support of civil society. Now they have stepped up their efforts to punish those who manage to find external funding and fail to comply with the draconian domestic regulation of foreign aid. Even after the arrest of Ales Byaliatski on tax fraud charges, representatives of donors fail to take the necessary measures not to worsen the risks which Belarusian activists have to deal with.
Investigations on relationships with foreign funds. On 22 September, Aliaksandr Silkou, Mahiliou regional coordinator of the movement “For Freedom”, was interrogated by a local customs department over smuggling charges. According to the activist, Brest police detained a Polish citizen Mr. Jaskowicki and seized a grant application with Mr. Silkou’s name on it as the stated applicant. On 22 September, Head of Hrodna branch of Belarusian Popular Front Vadzim Saranchukou was interrogated by the KGB about the relationship he has with foreign funds. Officials also mentioned a Polish citizen detained at the border who was carrying financial information, but with a different name.
Arrests for leaflets about silent protests. On 19 September, District Court in Homel sentenced activists Dmitry Shevchenko and Dmitry Karashkov to administrative detention respectively to 15 days and 3 days (violation of procedures for organization and conduct of mass events). The activists were arrested for distribution of information materials for the planned 21 September, actions of silent protest. Immediately after the trial, Shevchenko went on hunger strike.
Arrests for white-red-white flags. On 19 September, Tsentralny District Court in Minsk sentenced Uladzimer Yaromenak and Nasta Palazhanka respectively to 12 and 11 days of administrative arrest for alleged violating Art. 23.34 of the Administrative Code (violation of procedures for organization and conduct of mass events). The activists were detained in downtown Minsk as they were trying to hang out white-red-white flags of the pre-Lukashenka Belarus. This way they tried to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the white-red-white flag as the state symbols back in 1991.
Arrest and fine for leaflets about People Assembly. On 21 September, Homel District Court sentenced two local activists Andrei Tsianiuta (10 days of arrest) and Vasil Takarenka (Br 350,000 fine or $50) for distributing leaflets the day before. Leaflets were devoted to the upcoming People Assembly on 8 October.
Activist arrested right at police department. On 21 September, a United Civic Party activist Olga Paderina has been sentenced to 10 days’ administrative arrest by the court of Leninski district of Minsk under Article 21.14 of the Administrative Code (violation of municipal improvement and maintenance rules in centers of population). Olga Paderina was detained on 18 September late at night for pasting up stickers for the “Revolution through social networks” campaign.
Homel activist sentenced to 15 days of arrest. On 22 September, Homel Tsentralny District Court sentenced local opposition activist Kanstantsin Zhukouski to 15 days of administrative arrest for alleged usage of foul language and resisting arrest. Zhukouski was detained in downtown Homel before silent protests, and was reportedly beaten and later taken to the hospital.
Uladzimir Kobets: How I was recruited by KGB. Uladzimir Kobets, Andrei Sannikov’s campaign chief, has told how he had been forced to sign a collaboration agreement at the KGB.
Silent protestson 21 September. After a two-month break, the organizers of silent protests called again people to the streets. On 21 September, participants should have been just walking down along the main avenues/streets of their cities. A small number of people were noticed at the action: dozens of regions, up to 300 people in Minsk. Despite the presence of police there were no detentions.
Forum of cyclists in Hrodna. On 17-18 September, the first Forum of cyclists was held in Hrodna. The Forum aimed at gathering of cyclists to fight for the development of a cycling movement. There were 12 participants, representatives of regional centers of Belarus.
Independent Student Conference. On 18 September, Minsk hosted the conference "Higher Education in Belarus through the eyes of students". The organizer is "Center for Development of student initiatives". The conference adopted a resolution in which the participants, noting the absence in the public sphere students’ position in relation to higher education in Belarus, presented their vision to improve its elements.
Public Advisory Council dismissed. On 23 September, Head of Presidential Administration Vladimir Makey dismissed the Public Advisory Council due to its members desire not to be accused of collaboration with the authorities. Makey notes that “the personal experience and constructivism of former Council’s members could be useful in the future in the context of the great dialog, announced by the government”.
Group of reaction. National platform of Civil Society Forum of EaP is establishing a "Group of reaction" empowered to conduct dialogue and negotiation with different actors of the political process. Ulad Velichko (EuroBelarus), Ales Belyatsky (Viasna), Vladimir Mackievich (AHT/CSI) and Sergei Mackievich (the NGO Assembly) are nominated to the Group. The final decision on the composition and functions of the Group should be taken at the Conference of the National Platform in October.
Tournament of Zabej. On September 24, the 2nd tournament of community Zabejwill bring together more than 30 teams from various amateur football championships and towns in Belarus. Conducting the mass game Zabej demonstrates to young people possibility of self-organizing and contributes to the development of initiatives at the grassroots level.
Week of Informal Education. On 24 September-2 October, the 6th Week of Informal Education will be held in Belarus. This year the main topic of the Week is "Informal education and regional development". Seminars, trainings, round tables, master classes will be held in Grodno, Gomel, Mogilev, Brest, as well as in Smalyavichi, Hodosy, Krychau, Barysau, Zhodzina, Svetlahorsk, Shchuchin, Maladechna.
Republican Social Forum. On 24-25 October, the Republican Social Forum will be held in Homel. The purpose of the Forum is a demonstration, development and promotion of mechanisms and practices of social partnership between public authorities, NGOs and business for sustainable social development. Among the organizers there are Homel regional executive committee, International Education Center (IBB), NGO ACT, etc.
Belarusian House in Warsaw. In Warsaw, Belarusian political emigrants establish an organizationthat aims to unite local Belarusians through counseling, organization of joint events, cultural activities and lobbying of the Belarusian minority in Polish society. One of the Belarusian House founders is a member of movement "For Freedom" Ales Zarembyuk.
Stable dynamics of registration. During the eight months of this year the Ministry of Justice has registered 55 NGOs, 11 foundations, one trade union and one association. Compared to the previous five years, the dynamics of registration has not changed significantly.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. Politics & Civil Society Digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. The digests often go beyond the hot stories already available in other English-language media.