Does the European Union Need Belarus? - Digest of Belarusian Analytic

Does the European Union Need Belarus? journalist Nikolai Slutski examines whether the European Union could consider Belarus as an equal or an associate member of the European community, should Belarus decide to choose a pro-Western foreign policy vector. The journalist comes to a conclusion that beyond the politics, the EU has a weak economic motivation to have Belarus as a part of the EU.

He observes that  although Belarusian exports to the European Union today exceed exports to the Russia, most of it consists of processed commodities from Russia itself supported by cheap prices on Russian natural gas. He concludes that without cheap raw materials and energy supplies from Russia there will be almost no exports from Belarus to Europe.

10th Issue of the BISS Trends – Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) presents a new issue of the BISS Trends series of quarterly reports. The report concludes that in the second quarter of 2012, Belarus continued its efforts to integrate with Russia against a somewhat warmer backdrop of relations with the West and intensification of relations with developing nations.

The return to the old subsidies scheme for Belarusian-Russian relations enables Minsk to defy the conditions that the EU lays down to improve the mutual relations. Despite a certain thaw in Belarus’ relations with the European Union, the degree of repression and limitations on the freedoms of association and assembly never went down. On the economics front, the authorities have given up on the old approach to privatisation processes, sliding back to a less transparent and much slower method.

Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index #8 – BISS presents a new issue of the Belarus’ Foreign Policy Index, covering the developments of May and June 2012. The experts have concluded that the country has resumed its efforts to restore the true multi-vector character of its foreign policy endeavour (for the first time in many months, all of the combined indices are in the positive zone) and sharply intensify the relations with “developing countries” amid the previously outlined trend towards a deeper integration with Russia and “frozen” relations with the European Union.

How to Increase the Efficiency of the EU Technical Assistance to Belarus? – Alexei Pikulik and Elena Artemenko (BISS), based on the results of special research, believe that Belarus can significantly improve the quality of technical assistance from the EU. In particular, the experts consider that it is necessary to develop the collection and dissemination of information about the tools and technical assistance requirements through the efforts of state and non-profit institutions.

The West Lost the Last Round of the Battle for Belarus – American analyst Grigory Ioffe tells Deutsche Welle about the resources of the stability of the Lukashenka 18-year regime and how the relations between Minsk and the West will further develop. The expert believes that one of the secrets of the stability of the regime is vague Belarusian national identity, implying weakness of societal horizontal connections. The strengthening of vertical power structure has become a replacing factor in such circumstances.

Election monitoring reports. Human rights defenders for free elections campaign issued Monitoring Report on the Formation of the District Election Commissions. One of their conclusions is that "election legislation fails to ensure the transparency of the process of forming the district election commissions... Civil society structures are unable to influence the activity of these bodies."  Another observation is that creation of initiative groups for collection of signatures in support of candidates’ nomination does not show any significant difference in intensity of preelection activities  compared to regular level for parliamentary elections in Belarus.

BISS Polling Memo – BISS released a polling memo analyzing the results of national public opinion poll conducted by the Independent Institute of Socio-Economic and Political Studies in June 2012. While more Belarusians feel better about the country’s economy, the majority of population think the country is moving in a wrong direction. Lukashenko’s electoral rating dropped to 29.7%, but he continues to be the only real political player in Belarus.  

Belarusian Monthly Economic Review, July 2012 – the IPM Research Center has released its monthly bulletin which reviews recent developments in political and economic life of the country. The issue in July covers such topics as New contradictions in relations with the EU; Challenges at the labor market remain; Growth of exports to non-CIS countries increased; Increased standards for compulsory reserving.
Belarus in NGO Law Monitor. International Center for Non-profit Law included Belarus in its NGO Law Monitor. Now the Belarusian NGOs will be subject to regular legal review and analysis, along with other NGOs in more than 30 countries. The report notes that legislation of the Republic of Belarus and current law enforcement practices are not conducive to the development of not-for-profit organisations; in contrast to the country’s Constitution and international obligations, they significantly restrict the freedom of association. Scanlan Leaves Belarus – Before his departure from Minsk, after a three-year tenure as U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Belarus, Michael Scanlan gave an interview for TUT.BY-TV. He told about major issues in diplomatic relations between U.S. and Belarus; described the steps which should be taken in Belarus to get the benefits of the WTO and enter into the Bologna system. The diplomat also shared his opinion about the 2010 elections, the closure of U.S. programs, the Belarusian national character and his favourite Minsk bars.
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.

Belarus Digest