Belarus at EaP summit 2017, peacekeepers in Ukraine, London conference, legal education – Ostrogorski Centre digest
In November, analysts from the Ostrogorski Centre gave reasons for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka not attending the Eastern Partnership summit, assessed growing international support for Belarusian peacekeepers in Ukraine, and outlined how geopolitics increase the heft of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus.
The Ostrogorski Centre and the Faculty of Law of the Belarusian State University with the support of the British Embassy will hold a conference on the reform of legal education on 28 December 2017 in Minsk.
The Ostrogorski Centre has also continued to update the Belarus Policy database of research papers in the areas of economy, governance, and politics.
Igar Gubarevich tries to answer the questions why the time was not ripe for Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka to visit the Eastern Partnership (EaP) summit, where EU leaders met with six Eastern neighbouring nations—Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine—to discuss how to achieve stronger cooperation in economy, governance, connectivity and society. After a lengthy pause, Lukashenka declined the European Union’s invitation to lead his country’s delegation at the EaP summit in Brussels.
Why did the Belarusian leader deliberately miss the long-awaited opportunity to rub shoulders with Europe’s most powerful men and women? Few politicians and experts expected such a decision. Speculations abounded about Lukashenka’s motives, including the lack of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approval, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refusal to meet the Belarusian peacemaker, and a wish to avoid the possibility of protesters in Brussels.
Siarhei Bohdan discusses how Minsk is working to secure the support of key international players for an active role in defusing the Ukrainian crisis. Minsk wishes to find a new, international niche for itself through engaging in conflict resolutions. A central goal is to cast off the tired “last European dictatorship” epithet. At the same time, the volatility of the region has pushed Belarus along this course of action. Russian support is uncertain and increasingly limited. Thus, the Belarusian government has tried both to defuse at least some tensions around Ukraine and to gain more international respect.
Until now, Minsk’s efforts to become more neutral have appeared problematic. Moscow, in general, has never appreciated these attempts. The West has been unsure of Belarusian claims of neutrality. However, if Belarus does deploy peacekeepers in the Donbas Region, then arguably Russia, the West and other neighbouring states would, in effect, be validating Belarus’s right not to choose sides.
Vadzim Smok analyses how geopolitics increase the heft of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus. This year, the Catholic Church strengthened its criticism of unjust state policies against it when compared with the dominant Russian Orthodox Church. Against a backdrop of warming Belarus-West relations, the Catholic Church seems to feel more confident and, therefore, more able to publicly voice its problems with the authorities. Meanwhile, Minsk realises the importance of the Church for reaching its strategic goals and understands it will have to listen to Belarusian Catholics more carefully.
Call for Papers: The Third Annual London Conference on Belarusian Studies
The Belarusian Studies in the 21st Century Conference Committee, the Ostrogorski Centre and the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum invite proposals from established academics and doctoral researchers for individual papers and panel discussions on contemporary Belarusian studies. The conference is a multidisciplinary forum for Belarusian studies in the West.
All proposals will be considered on any subject matter pertaining to Belarus. This year, however, proposals relating to human rights, social media, education, the history of the Belarusian People’s Republic, Belarusian history and culture and sociology are particularly encouraged. A selection of peer-reviewed papers will be published in the Journal of Belarusian Studies in 2018.
As in previous years, in addition to the conference, which will be held 23–24 March 2018 at University College London, several other Belarus-related events will take place in London. The 2018 conference will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic, the first modern attempt of Belarusian statehood, as well as the 10th anniversary of Belarus Digest.
To submit a paper or panel proposal, please complete an online registration form at http://tinyurl.com/belauk2018 by 15 December 2017. Successful candidates will be notified by 5 January 2018. The working language of the conference is English.
There is a £10GPB registration fee associated with the conference to cover related expenses. You may pay the fee at the door or pay online (see the registration form for details). If you are unable to pay the registration fee, the organisers can a waiver. Please email email@example.com to ask for a fee waiver.
The organisers can provide non-UK based applicants with invitation letters for visas.
For any questions, please contact either Stephen Hall or Peter Braga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conference co-chairs: Professor Andrew Wilson and Professor Yarik Kryvoi
Please use this hastag #belstudies
Conference: Legal education reform in Belarus and the United Kingdom: sharing experience and looking to the future
On 28 December 2017 in Minsk, the Ostrogorski Centre and the Faculty of Law of the Belarusian State University with the support of the British Embassy will hold a conference on the reform of legal education. The Conference will be held at the Faculty of Law of the BSU (8 Leninhradskaja Street).
Rule of law is an indispensable foundation for a market economy, which provides an essential environment for the creation and preservation of wealth, economic security, well-being, and for improving the quality of life. Establishing the rule of law has been a challenge for all post-Soviet states in their transitions to a market economy and economic growth. Meanwhile, in Belarus, where the role of the state in the economy remains strong, further development of the legal system and training specialists in law should be a priority.
This conference will focus on legal education and its potential role in the reform process in Belarus. It will enable the British and Belarusian academics, businessmen and officials to discuss best practices and trends in legal education. In particular, the panels will discuss the organisation of the educational process, the development of professional skills for students and specialists, as well as opportunities for international cooperation in the field of legal education.
More information about the conference is available here.
Comments in the media
Impressed by the US electric car Tesla, President Lukashenka ordered Belarusian manufacturers to produce a domestic analogue. Neighbouring Moscow and Warsaw also have plans for a transition to electric vehicle manufacturing. The Russian government is working on a comprehensive program of support for the development of its electric car industry, while Polish leaders expect to produce one million electric vehicles within 5 years. Ostrogorski Centre analyst Vadzim Smok discussed on Radio Poland whether Belarus will succeed in becoming a pioneer in the production of electric vehicles in the region.
The UAE is a kind of hub for the Arab region, through which Belarus can access a number of rich countries that have ties with the West. In addition, sheikhs from the UAE are investing considerable funds in various projects in “third countries,” a term for countries outside the EU. Due to its friendship with the UAE, Belarus could also participate in these investment projects. Indeed, Emirate investments could also go directly to Belarus, which is already happening. Naviny.by, a web-based news portal, quotes Ostrogorski Centre associate analyst Siarhei Bohdan in фт article about the recent visit of Alexander Lukashenka to the UAE.
Over the last few months, Alexander Lukashenka appointed a number of new military chiefs who have never studied at Russian military schools. This is in contrast to the majority of the new appointees’ peers. In addition, certain candidates for official positions known to speak Belarusian on a daily basis also received high posts. Ostrogorski Centre analyst Vadzim Smok on Radio Poland discussed whether this indicates ‘Belarusianisation’ of the government is intended to strengthen the country’s independence and national identity.
The Ostrogorski Centre continues to update its database of policy papers on BelarusPolicy.com. The papers of partner institutions added this month include:
- Piotr Rudkouski. Soft Belarusianisation. The ideology of Belarus in the era of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. BISS, 2017.
- Andrei Sushko, Dzmitry Valodzin. E-participation as an instrument of inclusive public administration. BIPART, 2017.
- Anastasiya Luzhina. Elimination of corruption and tax evasion in the construction sector of Belarus. BEROC, 2017.
- Alexander Chubrik. The impact of the recession on the regions of Belarus: the role of starting conditions, economic policy and small business. IPM Research Centre, 2017.
- Hleb Shymanovich. Development of small and medium business in Belarus in 2016. IPM Research Centre, 2017.
Think tanks in Belarus are encouraged to submit their research for inclusion in the database by emailing us.
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.
Soft Belarusianisation, economic forum, reformists disappointed – digest of Belarusian analytics
Arciom Šrajbman explains why Lukashenka did not attend EaP summit in Brussels. Grigory Ioffe: The regime in Minsk has taken over some of the most important slogans and refrains of the opposition. Joerg Forbrig: I am not an “Architect of Revolutions” in Belarus.
Jaŭhien Prejhierman sees modest progress in US-Belarus relations. Piotr Rudkoŭski: through soft Belarusianisation, the regime is looking for new ways to arrange relationships with its own society and with the West. Belarus in Focus: reformists in the government and the National Bank are somewhat disappointed with the pace and prospects for economic reforms in Belarus.
IPM Research Centre fresh infographics on education: 5,7% Belarusian high school graduates can freely speak a foreign language. CET study: Belarusians’ self-identification “with the Soviet people” remains the same as in the early 2000s.
This and more in the new edition of the digest of Belarusian analytics.
Nothing to Talk About. Why Lukashenka Did Not Accept the Long-Awaited Invitation to Brussels – Arciom Šrajbman, at Carnegie Moscow Centre, analyses the reasons why Alexander Lukashenka did not accept the invitation to the Eastern Partnership summit – in brief, the EaP was devalued even in the eyes of its participants. This is cold realism, a field for the routine work of professional diplomats, where the leaders do not yet see the point of investing their political capital.
Modest Advances in US-Belarus Relations – Jaŭhien Prejhierman pays attention to some modest progress in US-Belarus relations, which have been in a downgraded state for almost ten years now. However, there is a fundamental problem Belarus has in relations with the US – unlike some other post-Soviet states, the country has no lobby in DC.
Belarus, Russia and the “Ukrainian Scenario” – Grigory Ioffe analyses fresh publications pertaining to the possibility of “the Ukrainian scenario” in Belarus. The author acknowledges that Belarus and Russia have common majority religion and language, and suggests that “Western influence is hardly the root cause of a potentially comparable Belarusian estrangement from Russia”. A functioning state is the main difference that Europe sees in Belarus compared to Ukraine.
Belarus: Generational Change and Nation-Building – Grigory Ioffe notices that the “regime” in Minsk has taken over some of the most important slogans and refrains of the opposition. And today, Belarusian language is no longer a clear marker of patriotism and identity. Such evolving nuances are easy to miss. Nevertheless, they are important to grasp for anyone aspiring to understand modern-day Belarus.
E-participation as an instrument of inclusive public administration The authors of the document discuss the creation of special electronic services in Belarus for public discussion of draft laws as well as an electronic platform that allows citizens to collect signatures for certain legislative initiatives. Read more
Joerg Forbrig: I am Not an “Architect of Revolutions” in Belarus – Joerg Forbrig, The German Marshall Fund, visited Belarus for the first time in the last 7 years and gave an interview to the Reformation Belarusian website. Dr Forbrig shares his understanding of Belarusian civil society and Belarus-EU relations.
Belarus and the 1917 Revolution – Grigory Ioffe notices that Belarus is the only successor state of the Soviet Union where 7 November is still a day off. The simplest interpretation of such continued veneration of Soviet symbols is that the current political regime of Belarus is a direct successor of the Soviet one. However, the expert believes that this is an intricate and complex theme, hardly conducive to the propaganda of any strand whatsoever.
Soft Belarusianisation. The Ideology of Belarus in the Era of the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict – Piotr Rudkoŭski notes that over the past three years, the government of Belarus is strengthening national identity, emphasising the divergence of Belarus’s interests from those of Russia. This modification probably means that the regime is looking for new ways to arrange its relationships, both with its own society and with the countries of the West.
Reforms: The society behind brackets. Yevgeni Moskvich, at Nashe Mnenie, refers to the results of the Kastryčnicki Economic Forum, KEF 2017 and notes that enthusiasm in relation to economic reforms diminished compared to previous years. However, this does not negate the relevance of reforms. “If consensus on this issue is impossible with the authorities, it is logical to find it with the society at least.”
The Belarusian leadership restrains economic reforms. According to Belarus in Focus, reformists in the government and the National Bank are somewhat disappointed with the pace and prospects for economic reforms in Belarus in the coming years. Hence, they are less willing to put pressure on the country’s top leadership and most ambitious of them leave the public sector.
Soft Belarusianisation. The ideology of Belarus in the era of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict To an increasing degree, the state ideology is focusing on strengthening national identity, emphasizing the divergence of Belarus’s interests from those of Russia, and re-examining the historical narration Read more
How Mistrust And Lack of Reforms Ruin Everything – TUT.by portal summarises the results of the Kastryčnicki Economic Forum, KEF 2017. Top-level international and Belarusian participants traditionally attended the Forum. While the first four forums raised the reform as the main issue, this year event shifted to humanitarian issues, raising a number of actual internal items both at the formal panels and backstage discussions.
Why Doesn’t Belarus Move Towards Market Economy? Five Important Thoughts Following the Results Of the Main Economic Forum Of the Year – Nasha Niva journalist formulates five theses according to his conversations with officials and businessmen at the KEF 2017. A shock transition to the market will turn into a disaster even with the absolute political will of Alexander Lukashenka, as soon as the majority of the population will find themselves uncompetitive in the market conditions. However, authorities need to understand that there are reforms that don’t “kill” economic growth, including reforms in education, judicial system, legislative drafting etc.
IPM Research Centre presents infographics on school education. Respondents of 17-21 years old from all types of settlements participated in the survey. Thus, the Russian language tops the rating of school subjects the knowledge of which was useful after school (53,7%); the Belarusian language took the second place (16.1%). Only 1.5% of Belarusian graduates speak several foreign languages.
“New Soviet” Belarusians – Centre for European Transformation, CET publishes the results of a national survey conducted in August 2016. The study shows that the identification “with the Soviet people” remains at the same level as at the early 2000s: a quarter (25,6%) of the Belarusians “often” feels closeness “with the Soviet people”, 18,5% – “sometimes”, and only 22,8% “almost never” feel this closeness.
All possibilities of extensive development exhausted. Zautra.by figures out what prevents Belarus from growing in the Doing Business rating. One of the reasons is connected with the fact that other countries have been more active in reforming their economies.
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.