Investments from the Gulf, EU energy cooperation, animal welfare law – state press digest
Belarus tries to attract investments from the Persian Gulf states. The EU suggests closer cooperation with Belarus in the energy sector. Belarus ranks 37th in the world in the Doing Business-2017 report.
The government introduces significant amendments to animal welfare legislation. The KEF-Economic Forum 2016 finishes in Minsk; it attracted businessmen, economists, bankers, and experts from the IMF and UN.
This and more in the new edition of the state press digest.
Politics and policy
Belarus's relations with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates continue to develop. The president of Belarus visited Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in order to strengthen cooperation. Lukashenka held talks with Qatari Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, reports Belarus Segodnya. At present, Belarus and Qatar are working on several mutual projects, including hotels and healthcare.
Qatar has also shown particular interest in the Belarusian food and timber industries. Among other agreements, the Belarusian Development Bank has received preferential terms for Qatari loans. A meeting with Sheik Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in the UAE also took place. Both parties discussed projects in the high-tech, military-technical, and scientific fields. Starting next year, the Minsk Tractor Plant will be supplying vehicles to the Emirates.
The EU and Belarus discuss further cooperation in the energy sector. The European Commission expressed interest in developing relations with Belarus in the energy sector, reports Belarus Segodnya. Andrea Victorin, Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus, made a statement entitled "Pan-European Integration Processes: Towards a Mutual Vision through Cross-Border Synergies" at the international conference.
In her statement, she maintained that energy security in the EU neighbourhood will remain a priority. In October 2016, the European Union signed a mobility partnership with Belarus. Negotiations on migration and cross-border crime are also taking place. In addition, Andrea Victorin highlighted the contribution of Belarus to conflict resolution in Ukraine.
Belarus prepares a new law on animal welfare. Under the new law, all domestic animals will have to be registered, after which they will receive an official ID, writes Soyuznoe Veche. The new law also states that regardless of apartment size, one family will only be allowed to own one cat and one dog.
According to the law, killing an animal will be punishable by 15 days in gaol. The law also provides a set of rules for keeping pets; people who violate these will be subjected to administrative sanctions. Another article of the law regulates taxation of dog ownership. Owners will now have to pay different taxes depending on the breed of the dog. This tax will come into effect starting in 2017 and will be higher for dog breeds considered dangerous.
Belarus goes up 7 points in the "Doing Business-2017" ranking. Belarus ranked 37th out of 190 countries for best conditions for entrepreneurship, reports Zviazda. The top ten countries included New Zealand, the Nordic countries, the USA, Hong Kong, and others. Estonia took the highest place among post-Soviet states, ranking 12th, while Tajikistan reportedly suffered from the worst business conditions among CIS countries (ranking 128th).
The rating also considered reforms currently being implemented in the field of entrepreneurship. Over the last year, Belarus has implemented four reforms, some of which are attempting to simplify property registration. The remaining reforms concern the streamlining and transparency of business procedures.
MAZ assembly will take place in Vietnam. During his visit to Vietnam, Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Siamaška and Minister of Industry Vitaĺ Voŭk signed a number of documents with representatives of the Vietnamese government. “MAZ Asіa”, a subsidiary of a Belarusian heavy machinery producer, will be part of the first mutual project between Belarus and Vietnam; it will involve joint production of 1500 units per year, reports Zviazda.
In addition, several Belarusian and Vietnamese companies have signed supply and co-production contracts. For instance, the company Auvіet Іndustry will receive 200 vehicles from MAZ. According to documents, “MAZ Asia” plans to sell vehicles in Cambodia, Laos, and the Philippines.
The KEF-Economic Forum 2017 concluded in Minsk. Businessmen, economists, bankers from Belarus and other countries, and experts from the IMF and the UN discussed the economic development of Belarus. Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Mikalaj Snapkoŭ stressed the need for investment in science and education, as well as improvement of the business and investment climate.
Belarus Segodnya notes that the participants of the forum recognised the success of the Belarusian government in stabilising currency rates, minimalising inflation, and increasing the gold reserve. Forum participants agreed on the need for a proper development strategy. Specific attention should be paid to production efficiency.
The head of the EU Delegation, Andrea Victorin, called on Belarus to develop further with the help of the EU. The Belarusian side noted that the EU must reconsider the regulation of relations between Belarus and the EU, which is currently based on a document from 1989, when the country was part of the USSR.
Foreign tourists are taking advantage of opportunities to visit Belarus visa-free. 46 foreigners have visited Belarus under the terms of the agreement, which came into effect on 26 October, reports Hrodzienskaja Praŭda. Tourists can enter Belarus at several checkpoints: "Bruzhi" and "Liasnaja-Rudaŭka" on the Polish-Belarusian border, and "Pryvalka," on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border.
Of the 43 people who have entered Belarus visa free, 14 are Poles, 15 are Lithuanians, and four are Spanish. Hrodzienskaja Praŭda recalled that foreign tourists can stay in Hrodna for five days. The regulations will remain in effect until December 31, 2017.
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.
Law on parasitism, Eduard Paĺčys released, non-formal education council – civil society digest
Kastryčnicky Ekanamičny Forum (KEF 2016) took place in Minsk with over 500 participants including high level stakeholders from government, international (financial) institutions, business and civil society. Minsk Dialogue holds a conference on pan-European integration.
Small vendors draft People's Law. Trade unions and human rights organisations discuss a strategy against the law on parasitism. DisRights Office presents an alternative report on women rights with disabilities. Eduard Palčys is released in the courtroom with a 21 month restriction of freedom sentence.
Public Council for the development of informal education will be created in Belarus. Mova Nanova announces competition #
This and more in the new edition of civil society digest.
Kastryčnicky Ekanamičny Forum took place in Minsk. Kastryčnicki (October) Economic Forum, KEF is held for the 4th consecutive year and considered the most influential economic event of the year. Organised by independent think tanks, the conference on 3-4 November gathered over 500 local and international experts, including welcome speeches by Deputy Head of Belarus Presidential Administration, Head of the EU Delegation, etc.
Minsk Dialogue expert initiative held the conference on Pan-European Integration on 27 October. Deputy Minister of Belarus MFA, Minister of the Eurasian Economic Commission, Head of EU Delegation in Minsk attended the conference. This was the fifth conference in two years under the auspices of the Minsk Dialogue that gathers in Minsk representatives of the world expert community to discuss pressing issues in the region.
Public policy initiatives
Small vendors draft People's Law. The decree by and for entrepreneurs has been developed to show what entrepreneurs consider fair, including all the conditions to import goods to Belarus. People's Law was created as an alternative to the state laws, unfavourable for the entrepreneurs’ activity. The Perspectiva NGO that protects the small vendors’ rights leads the process.
Strategy against the Law On Parasitism discussed. The presidential decree #3 widely known as “the parasite law” violates a number of legal acts. The Trade Union for workers of the radio and electronics industry, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee and other human rights organisations are going to present a strategy of how to stand up for your rights for people already affected by the decree or those who will experience it in the future.
Alternative report on women rights of the Office for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report was presented along with the official report of Belarus in late October, on the 65th session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The alternative report offers a number of specific recommendations to improve the situation of women with disabilities in Belarus.
Gender Centre finally denied registration. The Belarus Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the Mahilioŭ Gender Centre Rose to get registration. Earlier the Mahilioŭ justice department refused to register the NGO on the basis of inconsistency of certain items of the Statute. Namely, the NGO objective to eradicate gender-based discrimination "does not comply with the right to equality of women and men fixed in the Belarus legislation."
Eduard Paĺčys sentenced to 21 months freedom restriction and released at the courtroom. On 28 October, Eduard Paĺčys, or pen name John Silver, recognised as a political prisoner was found guilty of inciting hatred and production or distribution of porn materials and sentenced to 1 year 9 months of freedom restriction, without transfer to a penal colony. Meanwhile, policemen compiled over 70 administrative reports against those activists who picketed near the court building during the hearing.
MediaManagement Forum to be held on 17-19 November. This will be a three-day platform for publishers, editors, journalists and Belarusian CSOs to discuss the local media market, whether the Belarusian media and media projects fit into the global trends. The forum is organised by the IBB School of Journalism and Useful Competences Studio (Hrodna), in partnership with the Deutsche Welle Akademie (Berlin).
Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) to be held on 14-20 November. Belarus has joined the largest entrepreneurial initiative around the world since 2011. Coordinated by Bel.Biz company, GEW activities take place in all Belarusian regions and include International Entrepreneurship Forum, BEL.BIZ Battle startup competition, Mentor of the Year contest, startup networking events, etc. More than 2,000 people take part in GEW Belarus.
Belarusian language promotion
Master class of a people’s champion. Free courses of Belarusian language Mova Nanova/Language Anew announces a competition #janiebajusiasprabavać (I am not afraid to try). All people who are ready to talk in Belarusian all the day and then describe their impressions are invited to participate. An author of the best story will receive a super prize – an exclusive 2-hour training in Thai boxing from Vitaĺ Hurkoŭ, multiple world champion.
Belarusian weekends in cinema. Kinakong non-profit initiative and the Minsk cinema Victory start a series of film screenings in Belarusian. The shows are scheduled on a monthly basis and will take place on the weekends. The first Belarusian weekend presented the Amazing Grace on 22-23 October. This is the first attempt to run on a regular basis films in Belarusian. The first two shows are free.
Public Council for the development of non-formal education to be created in Belarus. On 14 October, representatives of 13 networks and CSOs gathered at the Association for Life Long Education's office to discuss the idea. Key areas, format and Statute of the Public Council are expected to agree on the first institutional meeting.
Belarus in Focus 2016 announced by Belarus in Focus Information Office in partnership with Press Club Belarus. This is the 6th edition of an international competition for journalists writing about Belarus in international media. The contest accepts articles about Belarus published during 2016. The articles will be evaluated by an international jury consisting of top media professionals. Deadline is 22 January.
Movement For Freedom elected a new chairperson. The reporting and election conference was held on 16 October, in Minsk. Juraś Hubarevič got voices of 59 delegates and replaced Aliaksandr Milinkievič who led the organisation since its foundation in 2007.
Sviatlana Karaliova re-elected as head of the BNP Coordinating Committee. On 22 October in Minsk, the regular conference of the Belarusian National Platform (BNP) of the EaP CSF was attended by about 50 CSO representatives. The conference discussed the EU-Belarus relations in the post-electoral phase and elected a new Coordinating Committee with Sviatlana Karaliova as the head. Ulad Vialička, the EaP CSF co-chair believes that BNP may become a party of currently bilateral Belarus-EU talks.
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.