"Aldis", - says Latvian MEP, vice-chairman of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Belarus Aldis Kuskis when he picks up his phone. For him Belarusian issues are of keen interest, his involvement with the country goes under the slogan of the Soviet pioneers: "always ready". He is no professional but an expressive, warm-hearted politician; and his statements are tough enough to secure him a ban on entering Belarus.
- Mr.Kuskis, what is the season of the year you associate Belarus with?
- I would like to associate the people of Belarus with spring – they are already awoken, they are active and energetic. But the country itself is still cold and frozen, like a dead, snowy winter. This time of the year is risky for spring flowers. I can’t call Alexander Lukashenko Ded Moroz (traditional Santa Claus - Father Frost, -Belarus Headlines) as he is of no positive character. But one shouldn’t forget the laws of nature – they are immutable. Spring is bound to set in!
- Why do you take such an interest in what you call Belarusian winter? Is it more professional or personal?
- I am an independent person and attach great importance to freedom. The highest value I would set on the freedom of choice. I feel that we should do whatever we can for any country of the world to let it be free to make choice. There is no need to travel far with such an intention, Belarus is our direct neighbour; we even had 50 years of common history. What I need, what I want, what I would like to do is to help my friends.
I can’t say I discuss Belarus with my family every day. I can’t even say I see my family every day. But we do discuss Belarusian matters: My wife would ask why we support this or that, ask about the projects, our involvement. But I am not that often at home and try not to talk about political issues.
- Do you have friends in Belarus?
- Well, I know many people in Belarus and would be glad to make new friends. Belarusians are an exciting nation – bright and talented. I met them in Riga, Brussels and Strasbourg – as long as I am persona non grata for Belarusian authorities, I can’t come to visit the country. The normal way would be for me to have the opportunity to come and learn more about the country, to be able to understand it better. If the authorities are afraid of me, then they fear that I could do what?
- What is your opinion on the press reports – is European media objective covering Belarus? And vice versa, is Belarusian media impartial writing about European affairs?
- There is no 100 percent impartiality on either side.
There is different level of understanding in Europe of what is happening, of the situation in Belarus. It is great but also quite normal. Journalists know more about the situation in Belarus than about Latvia or Portugal that are member counties of EU. For European journalists news is bad news; and since something bad is always happening in Belarus, the media have professional interest to write about the country and cover it more often. But that’s my feeling, I don’t have the statistics.
To analyse the EU coverage in Belarus we need to differentiate between government-controlled papers, which make 90-100 percent, they give a few true facts and, for most part, tell lies. The information on Europe in the papers that are almost independent is more or less correct. Independent media is mostly internet-based. In Belarus, on the whole, the biggest part of the free press is in the Internet as it is difficult to control it there.
- As a member of European Parliament, in your view, could you do more for Belarus? Should you do less?
- There is no reason to do less, we always do the utmost. Personally I have different obligations, split into priorities. I work at the Committee on the Environment and Committee on Transport and Tourism. Among the priorities of the national politics I understand it as my duty to explain the history of Latvia and the Baltic states to the colleagues, condemn the totalitarian nature of the Soviet communist regime, to do historical research. Ukraine is another foreign issue of mine.
I am not satisfied with the level of attention paid to Belarus, its placement on the European agenda. We do a lot. There more or less active phases involving strategic planning of the projects, their drawing-up, preparation, implementation. There is still a lot to do – Belarusian issue is not yet on the top of the agenda of EU institutions.
Aldis Kuskis has been Latvian representative in the European Parliament (Group of the European People's Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats), Vice-Chairman of Delegation for relations with Belarus since 2004.
Born in 1965, Riga. 1981-1995 worked part-time as a DJ, 1996-2002 held different managing posts at advertising agency "Lowe Age", then at telecommunication company "Baltkom". October 2002 – March 2004 Member of the Parliament of the Republic of Latvia. Since March 2004 Secretary of International Affairs of the Latvian national, conservative party "New Era". Speaks Latvian, English, Russian. Married, has s son and a daughter.
Interview conducted by Maryna Rakhlei