Policy briefs

Thu, 2014-04-10 10:40

By Vadzim Smok

During the three months of 2014, seven young people in Minsk died from eating blotting paper that contained a synthetic drug. A number of teenagers have also been seriously poisoned and ended up in the hospital in various cities across the country. After a ban on the free trade of poppy seeds was imposed on 1 January 2014, a synthetic drug, also known as 'spice', has made up 70% of the illicit drug market in Belarus. Due to the ease of creating the new narcotic with information readily available on the Internet, its distribution has become extremely difficult to fight against. However, the authorities recently launched several legislative initiatives to stop the spread of 'spice'.

Fri, 2014-04-04 13:49

Last week, the Belarusian economic news portal afn.by published a story with the provocative headline “Lukashenka: The Situation with Crimea Allows Belarus to Get its Nuclear Arms Back.” It was, of course, an exaggeration – the original statement lamented over the ineffectiveness of the Budapest Memorandum and its security assurances for nations that renounced their nuclear weapons. Talk of the renuclearisation of Belarus is not purely theoretical. Minsk likely still possesses some amount of enriched uranium. Feasibly, Russia can convince its Belarusian ally to redeploy Russian nuclear arms within its borders. Can Belarus de facto go nuclear by allowing a Russian military base to be established on its territory?

Tue, 2014-04-01 11:19

By Dmitry Kruk

Economic performance during first two months of 2014 has been rather disappointing. First, almost all industries reduced their output which led to a decline in GDP by 1.6% year-on-year in January-February. Second, Belarus has faced new challenges on foreign markets, which are a consequence of capital outflows and weakening growth in Russia. These economic shocks will deteriorate short-term prospects for Belarus, although the scope and scale of the negative impact is still not clear. Nevertheless, the government will have to react to the new environment it finds itself in, as the volume of accumulated imbalances is too high to be ignored.

Fri, 2014-03-28 13:58

The official forecasts for socio-economic development in 2014 is as conservative as it has ever been: the projected GDP growth is only 3.3%. International organisations and independent forecasters are even less optimistic.  The economic authorities' plans for 2014 are also unusual. Less than two years before the next presidential election, the "pillars" of the Belarusian social contract – wages and employment – are being affected. It has been stated officially that the real wages in the budget sector will only grow in the case of layoffs. According to official projections, employment levels will decrease in 2014 by about 3.4%, mostly through the "optimisation" of employees in state-owned enterprises and budgetary organisations. Against abackground of such major changes, there are plans to significantly raise utility costs for households – a very unpopular move. Why are the authorities adopting such measures? In 2013, the current account deficit reached alarming levels and households turned into a net buyer of foreign currency. If it had not been for tight monetary and fiscal policies, which were launched under the Joint Action Plan of the Government and the National Bank, the situation on the currency market in late 2013 could have been much more complicated.

Mon, 2014-03-24 09:44

A new online platform ePramova invites Belarusians to discuss public issues with politicians and civil society activists. Its users can ask any question and watch videos of politicians answering them on the website.

How the Belarusian experts see the situation in Ukraine? International Consortium EuroBelarus and Belarusian National Platform organised a roundtable in Minsk ‘Ukraine today: what we can and should do in the current situation?’.

A web site Nazirannie2014.spring96.org aims at involving the Belarusians who are interested in election observation.

Thu, 2014-03-20 09:21

By Yauheni Preiherman

On 10 March the EU Delegation to Belarus organised a conference entitled 'EU-Belarus Sectoral Cooperation: Looking Back and Looking Forward' in Minsk. Belarusian and European diplomats in attendance agreed that the crisis in Ukraine would not affect EU-Belarus relations as they are setting a new agenda for their bilateral relations. Another rapprochement between Belarus and the European Union seems to be looming large. The upcoming presidential campaign in Belarus, in part, explains the positive tone of the Belarusian MFA. The Kremlin's pressure on its neighbours also has set the stage for the authorities in Minsk to become more cooperative with the EU.

Thu, 2014-03-20 09:00

By Vadzim Smoke

On 12 March at a meeting of the Security Council of Belarus, Lukashenka confirmed that Belarus would maintain contact with the new Ukrainian government. He emphasised the close economic ties between Belarus and Ukraine and gave guarantees to Ukrainian business that their fruitful relationship would continue unscathed. Belarus' large stake in trade relations with Ukraine can be seen as the primary motivation for Lukashenka's affirmation of continued good will. Ukraine, after all, is Belarus' third largest export market with around $5bn in annual trade. As Ukrainian oligarchs continue to play a role in Ukrainian politics and Ukraine's economy, Lukashenka will have no choice but to work with them, despite the political orientation of the new government. 80% of Belarus' exports to Ukraine, however, come from refined petrol products that are made with Russian oil, making Belarus' lucrative oil scheme vulnerable to Russian pressure. To mitigate this and other possible threats that may arise as a result of a potential disagreement with Russia over the Ukrainian crisis, Lukashenka is trying to play the military card and raise his anti-NATO rhetoric game to appease Belarus' ally to the east

Wed, 2014-03-12 10:07

The Eastern Europe Studies Centre together with Stefan Batory Foundation invites the public to a discussion on gender equality in Belarus. The project Civic Dialogue hosted a panel discussion on how to modernise the Belarusian economy. The Central Electoral Commission of Belarus agreed to implement some of the changes proposed by the Helsinki Human Rights Committee. Now the central governing bodies of political parties and other public associations will have the right to send observers to precincts during voting.

Mon, 2014-03-10 10:09

By Vadzim Smok

At a meeting of presidents of the Customs Union on 5 March, Putin desperately tried to gain support on for Russia's invasion of Ukraine from his closest allies, Belarus and Kazakstan.

All his efforts, it would seem, appear to be in vain, as neither Lukashenka nor Nazarbaev publicly voiced support for Russia's aggression in Crimea. For both individuals, it became a dangerous precedent which showed the true nature of Russian politics in the post-Soviet space.

Now, the Belarusian authorities are attempting to re-launch their cooperation with the EU and preparing to host the Ice Hockey World Championship, they know full well that any involvement in the crisis in Ukraine could destroy their painfully reconstructed relations with the West.​

Tue, 2014-03-04 14:33

The Belarusian authorities have reacted discreetly to the events in Ukraine. They count on Belarus strengthening her positions in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, and that Brussels will reduce its requirements. Simultaneously, the Belarusian authorities have taken some measures to prevent the ‘revolutionary’ scenario in Belarus.