Sanctions, Solidarity and the Crises of the Command Economy - Digest of Belarusian Analytics the first month of 2012 Belarusian experts actively discuss the effectiveness of the European sanctions, the changing nature of political activities in Belarus and reflect on the most important economic events of  2011. 

Foreign Policy

Where do the European Sanctions Lead? Dzianis Melyantsou of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies (BISS) questions the effectiveness of EU sanctions towards Belarus. He points that over the last 15 years of sanctions the situation has not improved but continued to deteriorate. Melyantsou suggests to expand cooperation with Belarus in all areas and increase Western investments. He thinks that Europe should increase collaboration and communication on various levels of society and particularly with reform-oriented officials and young people in the framework of the Bologna process. He calls to enable Belarusians to travel without visas to the European Union to show that Europe actually cares about them and not hiding behind the wall of visas and sanctions.

The future of the EU-Belarus relations – Olga Stuzhinskaya, the director of the Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels) spoke on the prospective of the EU-Belarus relations to Stuzhinskaya noted that one can observe the disappearance of the remaining ‘European islands’ in Belarus. The EU is not on the agenda of the Belarusian government. Instead, there are new agreements signed with Russia leading to more political and economic integration of the two countries.

Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index #5 – BISS presents a new issue of Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index, which covers November and December 2011 as well as summarize of 2011 year. The last two months of 2010 were marked by the Eurasian integration, which has more tied Belarus to Russia. The European direction for the year evolved from a deep conflict last winter via an attempt to normalize at the end of summer to the "freezing" of relations at the level of rhetorical conflict in autumn 2011. The most stable relationship was fixed with developing countries, China and Ukraine.

Warsaw was not able to jump above the head - political analyst Dmitry Kukhlej, summing up the presidency of Poland in the EU, says that the official Warsaw failed to resolve the "Belarusian question" largely because of the return of generous Russia's subsidies and the financial crisis in the Eurozone. During the Danish presidency in the next six months EU attention to its Eastern neighbors, particularly to Belarus, will decrease, as the EU mostly deals with a decision of pan-European economic issues.

... And will continue to press one by one – Homel activist Pyotr Kuznetsov reflects on the failure of solidarity attempts of Mogilev bricklayers and believes that in such circumstances, the opposition should work day after day to build communities: "It is necessary to communicate with people, motivate them, to gain credibility and respect among them". The author believes that now such work is carried out only by a couple of national politicized NGOs, as well as dozens of youth initiatives in social networks; political parties and leaders are not seen in this work.

Revolution of friends and followers – journalist Arkady Nesterenko, summing up the year, says that in Belarus the political activity passes or has already moved to the networking initiatives (e.g., Revolution through the social network and STOP-Benzin). The author believes that the political agenda for the coming year should be formed based on the features of the new active audience: "If there is a revolution in Belarus, it will be a revolution of friends and followers, those who will just decide to go offline out of inner emigration."

Six of the facts on Ales Byalyatski case. – In response to the official propaganda campaign against human rights activist Ales Byalyatski human rights Center Viasna publishes facts about him ignored or distorted by state media. The official propaganda is trying to portray Byalyatski as a wealthy grant-seeking misusing Western funds. Defenders point out that Byalyatski's well is not greater than that of average Belarusians.  Viasna emphasizes that unlike the official propaganda tales, the facts presented on their web site are confirmed by official documents, which are in the criminal case and were articulated in the trial.


IPM Research Center predicts GDP drop in the first quarter of 2012 – Research Center of the Institute of Privatization and Management released a short-term forecast for Belarusian economy. According to the analysis, GDP is expected to drop in the first quarter of 2012 by 1.9-2.4%. The analysis also suggests upcoming stabilization and improvement of situation related to access to financial resources and for companies working in the real sector of the economy.

Belarus In the maze of economic identity.  Belarusian economists Leonid Zaika and Yaroslav Romanchuk presented a new book "Belarus 20/20. In the maze of economic identity." They argue that 2011 became the threshold year which clearly demonstrated the failure of Belarusian planned economy.  According to the authors, the sale of Beltransgaz, creation of the Single Economic Space with Russia, ruining of the Belarusian car market and beginning of the Belarusian nuclear plant station were the most significant events in 2011. Coincidentally, the title of the book is exactly the same as the title of a new campaign under preparation to explain Belarusians what kind of reforms the country realistically can opt for.

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.