Belarus – Russia: Negotiations on Oil Donations
On December 19 summits of the CSTO, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Customs Union will take place in Moscow. The agreement on oil supplies in 2013 is expected to be concluded during negotiations in Moscow between Lukashenko and Putin at the end of December 2012.
During last months of this year tension grows in relations between Lukashenka's regime and Russia. Lukashenka's team indicates to Moscow that it would not make concessions on issues of 'genuine integration', as it is seen by the Russian side.
With the exception of the forced sale of Beltransgaz, major Belarusian enterprises will not be sold to Russian companies. The authorities refuse to abide by the terms of extension of the loan of the Anti-Crisis Fund of the Eurasian Economic Community.
Moscow's dissatisfaction and irritation was also manifested in the statements that supply of crude oil to Belarus would be limited by 18,000,000 tons which is by 5,000,000 less than requested by Lukashenka. Limiting supply would have considerable negative consequences for Belarusian economy which became dependent on workload of oil refineries.
On October 29 the Vice-Premier of Russia Adkadij Dvorkovich announced that the issue of the volume of oil export to Belarus in 2012 – 2013 will be discussed depending on the solution of the problem of solvents export to Belarus. In October, according to Russian statistics, 1 million 347 thousand tons of oil were delivered to Belarus, or 22% less than in September.
At the beginning of the negotiations (which took place in Moscow from October 31 to November 1 the Russian delegation headed by Arkady Dvorkovich announced about Russia’s decision to supply 4 million tons of oil to Belarus in the last quarter of 2012, whereas the Belarusian side insisted on 5.3 million tons of oil.
As a result of the negotiations, the Belarusian and the Russian side claimed that an agreement on oil supplies for the last quarter of 2012 had been reached. However, the announced volumes of supplies were different.
The participant of the negotiations, Deputy Minister of Energetics of Russia Pavel Fedorov said Russia would export to Belarus 4.8 million tons of oil in the last quarter of 2012, in its turn, Belarus would export to Russia 200 thousand tons of petrol.
Fedorov remarked: “Such increase in oil supplies shows our readiness to find solutions, with due consideration of long-term strategic relations with the Belarusian side.” The same figures were announced by the Russian Ambassador to Belarus Alexander Surikov.
One can make a conclusion that the disagreement about the volume of oil supplies for the last quarter of 2012 has remained. Besides, disagreements on some other important issues have not been removed. There is no detailed information yet about the current suggestions from the Russian side.
The issue of compensating losses to the Russian budget from the “solvents business” has not been settled.
Just before the negotiations, the Russian side named the figure 1.5 – 2 billion USD as the tax not paid by Belarus. After the negotiations the figure rose to 2.5 billion USD. On 14 November the Minister of Energetics of Russia Alexander Novak assessed the potential losses of the Russian budget from 1.5 to 2.5 billion USD.
What Belarus Hopes For
On 16 November the First Vice-Premier of Belarus Uladzimir Siamashka commented on the statements of the Russian high officials, claiming that Belarus had to fulfill the obligation to supply oil products to the Russian market. As he said, in 2012 supplies to Russia were not always profitable for Belarusian oil-refining factories.
During the negotiations Semashka strongly denied that Belarus had violated any conditions of cooperation with Russia.
The authorities take tough stance in their talks with Russia taking into account not only the context of bilateral relations. Lukashenka's team believes that Russia will make concessions and it cannot afford long term worsening of relations with its only ally.
Already now, on the eve of the last round of talks on crude oil supply, Lukashenka's team indicates to Russia how the Belarusian side will act if crude oil supply is limited. Crude oil supply from Azerbaijan will be resumed. Belarus will restrict military cooperation with Russia. It will create tension in relations within the CSTO. If Russia does not agree on Lukashenka's terms, the authorities will use other opportunities for pressure as well.
On 26 November Lukashenko repeated the main points of the Belarusian position, announced previously in the talks with the First Vice-Premier. In particular, he remarked that Belarus had not violated the terms of oil supplies in 2012. Lukashenka announced: “I think we will arrive at an agreement, there is enough oil in Russia.”
Foreign Domains of Belarusian Parties – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Oil products trade, Belarus parliamentary elections, business associations, informal education and modernization are among the topics which interested Belarus experts recently.
Foreign Domains of Belarusian Parties BDG journalist examines whether Belarusian political parties and movements have websites and how properly their websites work. The study found that government and opposition political parties/ movements are paying a little attention to internet. Six political parties do not have websites at all, and only some entities regularly update their websites: BRSM, BSDP, UCP, BCD, Tell the Truth campaign, and movement For Freedom. Ultimately, the author doubts whether political parties are interested in the recruitment of new members and in their presence in the media space in general.
The Balance Sheet on Belarus Rodger Potocki, Senior Director for Europe at the National Endowment for Democracy, offers a comprehensive assessment of the successes and problems of the Western policy response to the December 2010 post-election crackdown in Belarus. In particular, the expert fixes that the international aid after 2010 was of crucial importance given the scarcity of internal resources. However, while the numbers were impressive, many of the pledges included support for already existing or planned programs. Most aid actually benefited Belarus-related projects based outside of the country. Less than a quarter of what was delivered went to those trying to cope with the crackdown and promote change inside Belarus.
Corporate Social Responsibility: from the European standard to the Belarusian reality – this manual of materials provides the analysis of the main conceptual approaches and models of CSR, summarizing the experience of regulations of foreign strategic CSR practices, and analysis of social and cultural traditions and political aspects of the formation of the Belarusian CSR models, as well as develops recommendations for a national model of cooperation between business and society. The study was conducted in the framework of the project "Slovak experience in corporate responsibility in Belarus".
Modernization. The Government's Plans Require Unrealistically Big Money – Alexander Avtushko-Sikorski, BISS, notes that despite of frequent statements of the Belarusian authorities on the need for modernization, their understanding of the term itself is incomplete: they still see it as a technical update of production without structural changes of economy in general. Such an understanding of modernization in the medium term again raises the question: where it is possible to get money.
Belarusian Business Associations: Problems and Potential Development – Olga Belskaya and Daria Uryutina, BEROC, present the research aimed to examine the existing obstacles for doing business in Belarus, as well as analyze the compliance of business associations activity in Belarus with the needs of business associations members and business in general. The research was conducted under the joint project with the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) with the financial support of USAID.
Belarusian Oil Industry Canceled Devaluation – a journalist of naviny.by refers to the Ministry of Economy, which gave birth to a mini-sensation, "recognized" that a positive balance of trade in Belarus over the last year is entirely on the conscience of export of solvents. Persistent attempts by the authorities to convince the public in dependence of the Belarusian economy on not quite clean oil needle look quite strange, moreover the information specified in the report, is simply not true.
Parliamentary Elections: Final Report – The “Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections” campaign released the final report on Monitoring the Election to the Chamber of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus (September 23, 2012). The report concludes that the election process was marked by serious violations of the principles of democratic and fair elections, as described in the OSCE standards and the Belarusian legislation. The authors also suggest recommendations to the electoral legislation of Belarus which will bring the elections close to the international standards.
The future of Belarus. Opinion of independent experts. It is the title of the book which was presented on December 10 in the Latvian Embassy in Minsk. Edited by Professor Oleg Manaev, the book represents the view of the leading independent national and international experts on the future of Belarus.
Informal Education for Regional Democratic Transformation – The book has been prepared by the experts from the EaP 6 countries, including Belarus, within the Education sub-working group of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum. The aim of the book is to show the actual situation on the ground of non-formal education in the EaP states. The publication aims to grasp the most relevant trends currently shaping the non-formal education as a mechanism for democratic transformation in the six EaP countries.
Monthly Brief on Security: November 2012 – Belarus Security Blog authors note that in November, the Belarusian authorities have continued to play up the theme of modernization, however, so far there are no specific proposals. Moreover, the plans that have already been announced most fall into the category of cosmetic tweaks.
Legal Regulation of Philanthropy in Belarus – Valery Zhurakovsky, NGO ACT, has developed a methodical manual, which provides an analysis of the Belarusian legislation in the field of philanthropy. The manual identifies the main legal barriers that hinder the development of charity in Belarus and offers seven key ideas to improve the legislation.
Survey of Brest Young People on Youth CSOs – In September-October 2012, Brest CSO "Dzedzich" conducted a survey of local young people to identify their relation to youth non-profit organizations in Brest. The main conclusion is that the Brest youth do not have a coherent understanding of the nonprofit sector, its role and importance in society. One of the key reasons is the lack of awareness of young people about CSOs.
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.