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Eurasian Customs Code, new visa liberalisation, food exports – Belarus state press digest

Lukashenka finally signs laws on implementaiton of the Eurasian Customs Code. After a presidential meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia approves additional credit for Belarus.

Foreign visitors of the 2019 Eurogames are to enjoy more beneficial visa-free regime. Legislation on business...

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Photo: sb.by

Lukashenka finally signs laws on implementaiton of the Eurasian Customs Code. After a presidential meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia approves additional credit for Belarus.

Foreign visitors of the 2019 Eurogames are to enjoy more beneficial visa-free regime. Legislation on business liberalisation is open for public consultation and recommendations.

Belarusian space scientists prepare to launch two satellites by 2020.

This and more in the new edition of the Belarus state press digest.

Foreign policy

Lukashenka signes a set of agreements on strengthening the integration of the Eurasian Economic Union. On 11 April 2016, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenka signed a package of agreements on integration with the Eurasian Economic Union, including the Customs Code of the Union, reports Belarus Segodnia. All other Union members signed the Customs Code at the Summit in December 2016 but Lukashenka refused to participate on the grounds that Russia had gravely violated existing agreements within the Union.

The agreements will secure the strategic engagement and political stances of Belarus within the Union regarding further integration with the global economy, as well as enhancing economic cooperation and free market negotiations with developing foreign economies. Additionally, they will advance custom-free regulations, coordinate the financial and energy markets among the members of the Union, and coordinate transport, information, and trade policies.

Belarus will extend the visa-free term for foreign visitors for the 2019 Eurogames in Minsk. Zviazda reports that the government is considering extending the length of visa-free stays for visitors of the 2019 Eurogames, so that they will have enough time to discover nearby places, which in turn will contribute to the development of Belarusian cultural tourism. Voters decided to hold the 2019 Eurogames in Belarus at the 45th session of the General Assembly of the European Olympic Committee in Minsk in October 2016.

Economy

Legislative and regulatory acts on business liberalisation open to public consultation. The government presented a set of regulations meant to ease the business environment significantly for a month of public consultation, writes Belarus Segodnia. The altered legislative framework facilitates setting up businesses, minimising requirements and allowing hopeful entrepreneurs to simply notify the government when they open a business. It will be the responsibility of business owners to comply with the new framework.

It also repeals scheduled inspections, ensuring that only informal and well-grounded inspections will be held, and introduces a tax advisory for business. The regulations also enact a moratorium on introducing new taxes for business.

Rosselkhoznadzor gradually lifts ban on Belarusian food exports. Experts at Rosselkhoznadzor, the Russian supervisory agency responsible for overseeing food production, checked 18 Belarusian food processing plants and lifted temporary restrictions on beef, meat products, and finished meat products from two enterprises.

Leanid Zajac, Belarusian Minister of Agriculture and Food warned farmers, food processing companies, and officials in the Ministry of Agriculture to pay maximum attention to the implementation of technologies and production regulations. The Russian supervisory authority remains extremely meticulous about Belarusian exports and sometimes goes beyond the bounds of common sense.

The Russian market remains a priority: in 2016 Belarus exported food products worth $3.7b to Russia, or 14.8% of the Russian Federation's total import. The inspection also targets the re-export of agricultural products banned by Russian counter-sanctions against Western countries. The head of Rosselkhoznadzor, Sergei Dankvert, accuses Belarus of re-exporting products from the sanction list and deliberately distorting statistics.

Russia will give Belarus an additional $1b in credit. On 9 April 2017, Belarusian Vice Prime Minister Uladzimir Siamaška announced that following the meeting between the Belarusian and Russian presidents in Saint-Petersburg, the two parties have reached an accord to grant Belarus about $1b in credit through the Eurasian Fund for Stabilisation and Development. This comes in addition to an already-facilitated loan from Russia worth $1.4b allocated to Belarus through the Fund between 2016 and 2017. Belarus received both loans on favourable terms, reports Belarus Segodnia.

Other

Belarus fails to tackle forced labour of Belarusian construction workers in Russia. According to Oleg Melnikov, head of the movement Alternativa, which provides assistance to victims of slavery and forced labour, his organisation has rescued and assisted in the release of about 400 Belarusian citizens subjected to slavery in the Russian Federation over the course of almost six years. However, there are no official statistics on Belarusians being forced into slavery overseas, therefore their number could amount to several dozen every year, writes Respublica.

Human traffickers typically seize the documents of Belarusian men upon their arrival in Russia, put them in squalid living conditions in unknown locations, and force them to work 14-16 hours a day with little or no payment. They often subject slaves to torture and threats to prevent them from escaping, and some have been mutilated or killed while working. Meanwhile, neither Belarusian nor Russian laws provide the necessary normative-executive grounds to prevent and combat slavery.

Belarus develops potential in space technology. The Belarusian chairman of the United Nations Office of Outer Space Affairs, Aliaksiej Bielacarkoŭski, argued in an interview with Respublica that Belarus has inherited priceless knowledge and experience in space technology from the Soviet Union. Many inventions and technologies developed by Belarusian scientists are actively used for building land registries and maps, systems of accurate localisation, geodesic systems, satellite-based navigation, geological explanations, and weather forecasting, among other technologies.

Belarus closely cooperates with Russia in space technology; however, more ties and collaborative projects should be developed with other foreign institutions and states as well. The country has built a new satellite and plans to launched it very soon. It will also launch a nano-satellite created by the Belarusian State University by 2020.

The state press digest is based on review of state-controlled publications in Belarus. Freedom of the press in Belarus remains restricted and state media convey primarily the point of view of the Belarusian authorities. This review attempts to give the English-speaking audience a better understanding of how Belarusian state media shape public opinion in the country.

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