Visa-free stay increases, cooperation with China intensifies, and Slavianski Bazaar – Belarus State Press Digest
Belarus increases the term of visa-free stay of foreign citizens to 30 days. Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei meets Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs to discuss the expected visit of Alexander Lukashenka to Latvia.
Belarus boosts economic cooperation with China and continues petty trade disputes with Russia. Meanwhile, the Russian ambassador to Belarus praises economic cooperation between Belarus and Russia. He also blames Russian counterparties of assisting re-export of sanctioned goods from the European Union to Russia through the Belarusian border.
Alexander Lukashenka demands reforms at the Academy of Management under the President of the Republic of Belarus. Vitebsk hosts an annual Slavianski Bazaar festival.
All of this and more in the latest edition of State Press Digest.
Latvian Foreign Ministry prepares for the visit of Alexander Lukashenka, reports Belarus Segodnya newspaper. On July 19-20, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makei met his Latvian counterpart Edgars Rinkēvičs in Riga and conducted talks on inter-state visits and economic cooperation between Belarus and Latvia. According to Makei, joint projects in IT might become “ground-breaking” for Belarussian-Latvian collaboration.
Belarus increases visa-free stay of foreign citizens from 5 to 30 days provided they enter and leave via the National Airport Minsk, reports Belarus Segodnya. Alexander Lukashenka signed the corresponding decree on July 24. For visa-free entry to Belarus, foreign citizens have to provide a valid passport, financial means (at least $25 for each day of stay), and a medical travel insurance with a minimum medical coverage of €10,000. The visa-free entry rules do not extend to any other international border checkpoints or airports of the country.
Alexander Lukashenka denies false rumours about his stroke. On 1 August, Alexander Lukashenka observed the grain harvesting campaign in Minsk district and talked to field workers and journalists, thus demonstrating being in good health, according to the report of the official Internet Portal of the President of Belarus.
Alexander Lukashenka praises economic cooperation between Belarus and China during the meeting with Chang Zhenming, the Chairman of Board of Directors of Chinese CITIC Group, reports Belarus Segodnya. According to Lukashenka, Belarus should establish a similar state company functioning in accordance with the CITIC’s principles.
CITIC Group Corporation Ltd. remains a state-owned investment company of the People’s Republic of China since 1979. CITIC’s major aims include attraction and utilization of foreign capital, an introduction of advanced technologies, and adoption of the advanced international practice in operation and management. CITIC Group has already implemented several projects in Belarus, including the creation of the first Belarusian automobile plant. Recently CITIC Group has invested into the creation of a high-tech agro-industrial production in Belarus.
On 31 July, the Chinese contractor handed over the symbolic key from the Vitebsk hydropower station to Belarusian engineers, reports Belarus Segodnya. The construction of the Vitebsk hydroelectric power station, the most powerful in the country, began in 2012 after the agreement between China’s National Electric Engineering Company and Vitebskenergo. The Vitebsk hydropower station started its operation in 2017. According to Mikhail Luzin, the General Director of Vitebskenergo, the new hydropower station will help to ensure Belarusian energy security.
Meanwhile, Belarus and Russia continue petty trade disputes. On 24 July, the Russian regulator Rosselkhoznadzor banned the import of Belarusian champignons, reported Soyuz newspaper. The Russian regulator uncovered the cheating scheme of marking Polish-grown champignons as Belarusian ones during the inspection. Belarus, on the other hand, restricted the import of pork from several Russian regions due to the African swine fever.
The Russian Ambassador in Belarus acknowledges trade disputes, yet calls for further economic integration. In an interview to Soyuznoe Veche newspaper, Alexander Surikov blamed Russian counterparties of assisting re-export of sanctioned goods from the European Union through the Belarusian border. At the same time, Surikov maintained that the Belarusian side illegally provided them with fake supporting documents. Still, Belarus remains Russia’s fourth major trade partner. Hence, according to the Ambassador, the countries should “engage in deeper economic integration” and “push their joint enterprises into Eurasian and world markets”.
Alexander Lukashenka demands reforms of Belarusian higher education. In particular, Lukashenka expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of graduates of the Academy of Management under the President of Belarus, reports Belarus Segodnya. According to Lukashenka, no “unsuitable people for a career in management” should enter the Academy after the 1st of September this year. The Academy’s rector Gennady Palchik reported on the conducted optimization of curriculum and the number of students.
The XXVII International Festival of Arts “Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk” announced winners of the annual pop contest, reports Vitebsky Kurier newspaper. The Grand Prix won a tenor from Romania Marcel Rosca. Amre (Ernar Sadirbaev), Kazakhstan’s contestant, received the first prize, despite obtaining a similar score with the winner. Mila Nikitic, Ukraine’s contestant, took the second prize.
Hrodna’s women launch “Femininity flashmob”, reports Evening Hrodna newspaper. On 1 August, a group of well-dressed female participants gathered in the city centre and spread out flowers to passing by women. The flashmob intended to raise awareness about gender issues in Belarus and encourage women to share the burden of domestic work with men more actively.
The State Press Digest is based on the 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.
LPG export growth and a war on network fakes – Digest of Belarusian Analytics
Belarus turns into a huge exporter of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to neighbouring Ukraine and Poland. Belarus’ economic authorities have managed to obtain a credit for business confidence.
The prosecutor’s office intensively detects violations in the Belarusian army. Belarusian authorities declare a war on network fakes. Minsk Dialogue Forum becomes the first attempt to identify the fundamental gaps in the regional security architecture.
The visit of Russia’s entire leadership fails to result in significant outcomes. 77% of Belarusians have either a positive or a neutral image of the EU. Contemporary Belarus bears less and less resemblance to the persistent but worn narratives about the country.
This and more in the new digest of Belarusian analytics.
Never Mind the Oysters, Belarus Grows Into Big LPG Exporter – Damir Khalmetov, Reuters, notes that Russian tensions with Ukraine and the West help Minsk work with Moscow and European states, gaining additional profit as a trade mediator and a way to gain access to the Eurasian Economic Union. This year Belarus also turned into a huge exporter of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to neighbouring Ukraine and Poland.
Trust as Driver of Economic Growth: Guidance – Alexander Chubrik, IPM Research Center, notes that in recent years, Belarus’ economic authorities have managed to obtain a credit for business confidence. The important task now is to strengthen this trust that will help mobilize domestic investment and create new jobs in the private sector. It is also important for the state to focus on institutional reforms.
The situation in the Field of National Security and Defense of Belarus. May 2018 – Monthly monitoring of Belarus Security Blog draws attention to the intensity of the prosecutor’s office in detecting violations in the army. The fact of the publication of offence cases can be regarded as an extreme concern of Lukashenka personally to the state of legality in the troops.
Authorities Declared War On Network Fakes. And Armed By Them – Artiom Shraibman, TUT.by argues about a suggestion of the Belarusian general prosecutor to punish not only for libel and insults but also for distributing “unreliable information”. The problem is not in good intentions of the Belarusian authorities: Belarusian practice shows that almost any sharp criticism in the officials’ address could be considered as “unreliable information”.
Belarus, the Borderlands and the U.S.-Russia Standoff – Eugene Chausovsky, Senior Eurasia Analyst at Stratfor, highlights that like other states in the European borderlands, Belarus will continue to seek to take advantage of the Russia-West standoff to meet its strategic interests. These countries will be unable to escape their geopolitical vulnerabilities because their fates are shaped by the larger powers surrounding them.
Minsk Dialogue Forum: Why This Is Important – Denis Melyantsov, one of the organizers of the Minsk Dialogue Forum, explains why the forum has become a landmark event for Belarus. Organized by an independent expert initiative, the forum gathered half a thousand leading analysts, provided a space for Alexander Lukashenka’s speech, and became the first attempt in such a representative circle to identify the fundamental gaps in the regional security architecture.
Relations with Russia
Russia’s Entire Leadership Team Visits Minsk – Grigory Ioffe overviews the media reaction on the visit to Belarus a team of top-level Russian guests, including President, Prime Minister and the heads of both chambers of the Russian parliament on June 19. The author summarizes that the last Lukashenka-Putin summit did not result in any sensational outcomes.
July 3rd Parade is Fraught with Consequences for Minsk – The participation of foreign servicemen in the parade in Minsk on July 3rd is fraught with new complications in military-political relations between Belarus and her neighbours. In particular, this year’s event was attended by the ceremonial squad from Russian Pskov that participated in the aggression against Ukraine.
Under Lukashenka, There is No and Can Not be a Pro-Russian Opposition in Belarus – Political observer Artiom Shraibman reflects whether it is possible to combine national interests and integration commitments of Belarus and Russia, says that Russia can rely less and less on Belarus in foreign policy, and believes that the West does not intend to overthrow the existing Minsk regime.
Relations with the EU
EU Neighbours East’s Annual Survey: Belarus (3rd Wave) – The opinion polls are carried out in the six EU’s Eastern Partner countries to investigate the opinion and the level of awareness about the EU and the EU cooperation. 77% of Belarusians have either a positive or a neutral image of the EU, with only 18% negative; 47% trust the EU, exactly the same number as those who trust the Eurasian Economic Union (47%).
Relations with the EU: Agenda, Problems, and Solutions. Parameters of ‘Critical Interaction’ – Dzianis Melyantsov notes that Belarus’ relations with the European Union (the second trade and economic partner after Russia) are controversial. On the one hand, there is a steady growth in trade, but on the other – an absence of a legal basis and a delay in negotiations on a number of important agreements.
How Belarusian Cities Can Present Themselves At the International Level – Marina Borisova, Interakcia Foundation, presents a kit of international cooperation opportunities for Belarusian cities. The author notes that some barriers to international cooperation like language handicap can be overcome with the help of CSOs. As a rule, CSOs are more aware of such opportunities.
Clichés Clashing With Real Life in Belarus – Grigory Ioffe believes that contemporary Belarus bears less and less resemblance to the persistent but worn narratives about this country. Based on the recent developments like a public discussion around a rainbow gay pride flag at the UK Embassy in Minsk, the author concludes that staying away from habitual clichés continues to be the best prescription for foreign policymakers.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent analytics on Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.