Policy briefs

Sun, 2008-06-15 15:29
Belarus -- the last country in Europe to apply the death penalty -- will eventually abolish capital punishment by presidential decree or parliamentary vote, rather than by calling on the people to decide the issue in a referendum. This was confirmed in a carefully-worded statement by the country's prosecutor general, Grigory Vasilevich, issued to IPS on June 6. "The Constitutional Court believes that under existing conditions only the president and the parliament are able to abolish the death penalty or declare a moratorium," Vasilevich said, adding that the punishment in Belarus was only a "temporary" measure.
Wed, 2008-06-11 09:51

Belarus is the only CIS country whose geopolitical preferences haven't been defined yet. This proposition may seem absurd, because formally everything is clear-cut: Minsk has been in alliance with Moscow. But in reality everyone has learned that you can hardly find a better advocate of national independence than the Belarusian president.

Mon, 2008-06-02 14:40

By Dzianis Melyantsou and Vitali Silitski 

The rise in Schengen visa fees and the expansion of the Schengen Zone to the Belarusian borders inDecember 2007 not only substantially complicated the trans-border contacts but also caused a negative effect for the image of the European Union inside Belarus, working to indirectly strengthen the repressive political system in the country. These tendencies are in the entire contradiction to the intention to facilitate democratization of Belarus through a dialogue with the society articulated by the EU. The absence of political will within the EU and reluctance of official Minsk to make a step towards Europe do not allow solving the problem of high visa fees for Belarusian with the help of central EU institutions. The EU has to realize that the visa issue is one of few real policy tools that can be used to leverage positive political and social changes in Belarus. For that, a certain ‘mindset change’ in Brussels and members states is necessary: visa policy has to be shifted from being a tool of government-to-government conditionality to an instrument of proactive policy targeted directly to the societies of neighboring countries and, particularly, Belarus. On its own side, the Belarusian civil society has to boost its own cause by intensification of pro-European activities inside the country. In the mean time, instruments existing under the current Schengen acquis   may be utilized to facilitate visa issuing procedures.

Thu, 2008-05-29 13:51

By RFE/RL analyst Jan Maksymiuk

Alyaksandr Lukashenka this year had a golden opportunity to free all political prisoners in Belarus and take an important stride toward improving the country's standing in the West. Instead, the Belarusian president chose to pass on the chance and retain Belarus's status as the only country in Europe that imprisons people for political convictions.

Thu, 2008-05-29 09:58

BBC Monitoring Alyaksandr Lukashenka threatens to shut down oil and gas pipelines if the EU adopts U.S.-backed sanctions. [The following article by Vladimir Solovyev, "Transit Threatened: Alyaksandr Lukashenka Blackmails EU With Russian Energy Resources," was published in the independent Moscow newspaper Kommersant on 15 May.]

Thu, 2008-05-15 11:32

Yesterday Reuters published an interview with Belarus’ President Aliaksandr Lukashenka where he threatened the EU with energy sanctions for the first time should it let the USA push itself around making the line on his country tougher. Besides, the Belarusian leader stated for the first time that he was going to run for president for the fourth consecutive time. Mr Lukashenka can abandon this plan only in case he becomes the politician of the Russia-Belarus Union scale.

Russian-style blackmail.

Tue, 2008-05-06 11:46

By Kiryl Haiduk

Does growing foreign debt create a new economic context in Belarus? The repercussions of growing foreign indebtedness are not yet clear-cut despite almost a twofold increase in foreign indebtedness over a year. However, some trends begin to appear. First of all, growing foreign indebtedness is very likely to spur additional liberalization measures, including opening the routes towards FDI inflow. Since Belarus is only entering ‘the borrowing business’ so, for that matter, there is a range of policy options of how to cope with it. Ultimately, the choice would depend on the export dynamics and also on the configuration of Belarus-Russia relationships now heavily diluted by gas price.

Tue, 2008-05-06 11:42

By Miсhal Zaleski

World oil prices continue their precipitous increase. Having more than tripled in the course of the last five years, they reached the record high levels of up to 110 US dollars per barrel in the first quarter of 2008. Belarus benefited enormously from the price rush, as it increased profitability of oil refining, on which the Belarusian economy heavily depends. Nowadays, however, the further price increases may hurt the economic growth, which will bring the long-overlooked issues of industrial restructuring and energy efficiency back on the economic policy agenda.

Sun, 2008-04-27 07:00

For more than thirteen years Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the enigmatic leader of Belarus has been able to surprise everyone whilst in reality, changing little. Making use of popular interest in romantic notions of a “last dictatorship” or the last true outpost of the Soviet Union, Lukashenka has been able to capitalize on Belarus’ geopolitical position during these past years. Meanwhile, he deals with blackmail and keeps no gentlemen’s agreements in his attempts to reverse any Western conditionality.

Thu, 2008-04-17 16:04

by Aleksandr Matijevich

Most agree that Minsk's wintertime release of political prisoners was a gesture toward Europe. But what happens now?