President comes to Pinsk, Writers evicted, Lights out in Holland, Poland begs for workers, Will Belarus build a NPP? S. Africa, Kim Zigfeld, UEFA
From the Top
Lukashenko opens Polesie State University in Pinsk
This establishment of higher education was set up in line with the decree of the head of state on basis of the reorganized Pinsk State Higher Banking College and closed Pinsk branches of Belarusian State Economic University and Private Management and Entrepreneurship Institute.
"The creation of the Polesie State University is another important move towards implementation of the youth policy of the state. To make quality education more accessible for the youth from rural areas, small and medium towns is the main objective of institutions of higher learning." Said the President of the Republic of Belarus at the solemn opening ceremony of this educational institution.
Some 983 people have become first-year students of the university including 426 full-time students. Some 557 young people will take extramural courses. At present 3 990 people study at the economic and banking departments of the university. Opening of a Polesie State University is an area of the Belarus’ strategic course to develop regions and towns.
The president noted that this is the second state university (the first one was opened in Baranovichi) set up since Belarus became an independent country. Opening of new educational establishments on Day of Knowledge has become a nice Belarusian tradition.
“The wealth of our motherland is in regions – a powerful resource to build up prosperous Belarus, the state for the people,” Alexander Lukashenko said. But to make the resource function properly we need special personnel ready to work to set up modern living and working conditions in each town and village. “We are interested in educating the kind of youngsters who would value their motherland more than any foreign paradise,” the Belarusian leader said.
Concern for young people has always been one of the top priorities of the state policy pursued in Belarus, president of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko stated during an opening ceremony of Polesie State University in Pinsk.
The head of state has noted that this year Belarus’ government has adopted three fundamental documents describing the main guidelines of the state policy to support families, children and young people. The matter concerns the programs “Children of Belarus”, “Youth of Belarus” and “Young Talents of Belarus”.
According to the president, Belarus has done a lot for every young person to make his dreams come true and to get good education. This year the government has approved new rules of admission to higher education and special educational establishments. The head of state expressed hope that the document would help most talented young children enter establishments of higher education.
Alexander Lukashenko underlined that the state renders considerable welfare assistance to students. The special presidential funds have been successfully working with the future intellectual and creative elite of Belarus for more than ten years. In summertime any young man can earn money and have a rest in student camps. Young people help implement a large-scale project on reconstructing the Augustow Canal.
Belarusian Writers Union Evicted
The eviction order was issued by a court that earlier this year ruled that the Union of Belarusian Writers had not paid rent for the past several years.
The Union of Belarusian Writers, which was founded in 1934, refused to pay rent on the grounds that the House of Writers where it was based was built partly with writers' royalties.
Its eviction is seen as an attempt by authorities to marginalize a group of intellectuals who have refused to bow to the authoritarian regime of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Court bailiffs arrived at the building on August 30 and ordered the writers to leave the building.
In a symbolic gesture, the writers took with them portraits of some of the classical writers of world literature.
Milinkevich Nominated For European Prize
The European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Belarus said that in this year's presidential election Milinkevich had shown "courage to challenge Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the last dictator of Europe."
The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was set up in 1988.
It is awarded each year by the European Parliament on or around December 10.
The prize is worth 50,000 euros.
Energy workers threaten to black out Holland-Belarus game
From: Raw Story
"This will not be a minor protest of five minutes," said Jan de Jong, chairman of the joint works council.
The lights would go on for the game only if the government agreed not to split up the concerns, he said.
Any attempt to move the game to a different stadium would have no impact, he added.
Energy sector workers have expressed concern that privatizing electricity generation will lead to foreign control.
"We intend to use this protest to show what could happen if Russian President Vladimir Putin turned off the electricity tap," de Jong said.
The Dutch energy companies are currently controlled by the provinces and the local authorities.
The plan to cut power to the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven on Wednesday night to protest government proposals to open the electricity market to competition sparked outrage in this soccer-crazy country.
However, on Saturday the electrical workers' labor council said it would not leave soccer fans in the dark and had in fact never intended to do carry out the threat, national broadcaster NOS reported.
The labor council did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Poland scraps barriers for non-EU workers
From: This is Londomn.UK
Under the new system, foreign language teachers, journalists and graduates of Polish medical schools, as well as company management board members and businessman temporarily delegated to Poland will no longer need work permits.
Seasonal farm workers from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus will also be exempt if they work for less than three months during a half-year period, although their employers will have to report they are in Poland.
"Polish farmers have signalled labour shortages. particularly in relation to seasonal work," the ministry said in a statement. "Scrapping the permit requirement should also limit illegal employment."
Poland's jobless rate is the highest in the European Union at just under 16 percent, but the exodus of tens of thousands of younger Poles to jobs in western Europe has sparked fears over shortages in particular sectors at home.
The ministry said the requirement to gain a permit -- which cost around 900 zlotys ($300) -- had also discouraged workers who would otherwise have been legally employed and registered.
Changes to Electoral Code to abolish second round in local elections
From: Belaruskie Novosti
According to Nikolai Lozovik, secretary of the central election commission, the proposed changes were prompted by previous local elections, which showed that the population's interest in local elections is much weaker than in presidential or parliamentary elections, whereas the required voter turnout is the same 50 percent. Turnouts in the second rounds of local elections were still lower than in the first round.
The abolition of the second round would help save public funds and facilitate organizational work, Mr. Lozovik said.
"In practice, the winner of the first round becomes the winner in the second round as well," he noted. "The candidate who would gain the largest number of votes in the first round would be declared the winner in the election."
The abolition of the second round would lead to changes in the Electoral Code's articles that govern the operation of election commissions, Mr. Lozovik noted, adding that the Code's sections governing the rights of candidates, voters and observers would not undergo serious change.
Belarus is expected to have elections for local soviets on January 14, 2007.
Decision to build NPP in Belarus to be based on public opinion
Alexander Lukashenko said the Belarusian economy needed a nuclear power plant, which would cut the country's dependence on supplies of energy resources by 24%. He said Belarus was studying NPP projects proposed by France and Russia.
"Belarus needs an NPP, but the issue will not be forced in the country. The decision will be made with due account for public opinion," said the authoritarian leader.
Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed Europe's last dictator in the West, but popular with many in his country for defending national interests, suggested the nation would support the idea of building a plant if it were a modern and safe facility.
"There are several NPPs using outdated technology in neighboring countries. Belarus is vulnerable in terms of security, and the Chernobyl accident testifies to that," the president said.
The president said the issue was being discussed, but that it could not be imposed on the people for economic, as well as psychological reasons.
Mush of Belarus was badly affected by the world's worst nuclear accident - the April 1986 explosion in the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl NPP in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. The radioactive fallout also contaminated large areas in Ukraine, Russia, northern Europe and other regions further from the disaster.
About 135,000 people were evacuated from within an 18-mile zone, which has left the surrounding area largely deserted to this day.
In April, Greenpeace said in a report that up to 600,000 people may die of cancers developed as a result of Chernobyl radiation exposure, a huge increase on UN figures, which put the excess cancer death toll at 9,300.
In Europe, countries are divided on nuclear power, which could help the European Union to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and meet its Kyoto targets, while satisfying growing electricity demand.
While also using renewables in electricity generation, some countries, in particular Finland and France, are building new, fourth generation, reactors which are considered economically competitive and safer, to replace old ones.
However, safety concerns prevail in other countries, including Germany and Spain, which have moved to phase out nuclear plants. Britain has yet to choose which way to move forward.
Russia's president called in June on the nuclear industry to assume a greater role in meeting the nation's energy needs and for security to be tightened at nuclear facilities.
Vladimir Putin tasked the government to bring the share of nuclear power in overall electricity production from the current 16% up to 25%.
Belarus refuses to pay more than Europe for Russian gas
"Russia sells us oil for a price higher than that for Ukraine, and the gas prices it offers us are higher than those for Germany," Lukashenko said. "We will never pay more than Germany does."
He said Belarus was not against increased prices for Russian gas supplies, but said they should not be higher than domestic gas prices in Russia.
The controversial leader said Belarus had alternative sources of energy supplies, including from Venezuela. Hugo Chavez, the outspoken president of the South American country, visited Belarus in July and claimed the two countries enjoyed a "strategic alliance."
Belarus currently pays $46.68 for a thousand cubic meters of Russian natural gas, while average gas prices for European Union countries are $180-200 per 1,000 cubic meters.
Belarus plans to evaluate the cost of its largest pipeline company, Beltransgaz, in October as Russian state natural gas monopoly Gazprom seeks a 50 percent stake in the company, Belarusian First Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Semashko said Aug. 29. Gazprom has said the new price for natural gas supplied to Belarus would depend upon Belarus' offer for Beltransgaz or the Mozyr oil refinery.
Belarus, Russia experts to discuss observance of equal labour rights
The information and public relations department of the Belarusian foreign ministry told BelTA, a sitting of the interstate interagency working group tasked with developing recommendations for pursuing a co-ordinated migration policy and taking co-ordinated measures to fight the illegal migration will take place in Minsk on September 4-5.
In particular, the experts will consider issues related to the observance of rights of Belarusian and Russian citizens working in the two states. The procedure used to exchange information between central databases on foreigners, who leave or enter the Union State through border checkpoints, will be discussed.
Attention will be paid to the preparation of joint drafts of international agreements of interagency nature, which regulate the interaction of the Federal Migration Service of Russia and the Belarusian interior ministry in the fight against illegal migration.
The agenda includes amendments to the legislation of the two states, which regulates the legal status of foreign citizens and stateless persons as well as Russia's progress in ratifying the Belarusian-Russian agreement on Belarus and Russia citizens' equal rights to freedom of movement and travel, choice of residence in the Union State dated January 24, 2006.
Belarus considers buying two oil fields in Russia
The prime minister of Belarus said August 1 that exports of crude oil to Russia could drop because the country was redistributing it to other countries. But he said the country could lose markets if it did not cooperate with Russia.
Mikhail Osipenko said the fields have an estimated reserve of 15 mln metric tons.
"Russian companies would like to sell them at a very high price. We, of course, would like to buy them for less," he said. He did not disclose the location of the fields, citing confidentiality considerations.
The Belarusian State Petrochemical Concern (Belneftekhim) includes the country's largest enterprises in the chemical and petrochemical industry.
Foreign Minister Martynov signs several agreements in South Africa
The accords were inked during the Belarusian official's ongoing visit to South Africa, the Belarusian foreign ministry's press office said.
Mr. Martynov met with his South African counterpart, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, as well as Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mphalwa and the management of Johannesburg University on August 28.
The Belarusian and South African foreign ministers discussed the current state of and prospects for the expansion of bilateral political, economic, scientific and cultural cooperation, as well as steps to forge closer ties between the two countries within the United Nations, the Non-Alignment Movement and other international organizations.
While talking to reporters after the meeting, the Belarusian minister noted that his country, shunned by the United States and the European Union, wanted to create "a dense fabric" of ties with South Africa. "We are like minded on how the world should be run and how the United Nations system should be changed," South African news agencies quoted him as saying.
Mr. Martynov's meeting with the South African minister of trade and industry focused on ways of stepping up bilateral economic contacts.
The visit also yielded a memorandum of cooperation between Johannesburg University and Belarusian National Technical University.
The Belarusian minister is expected to head back to Belarus on August 30.
AMBASSADOR OF BELARUS: AZERBAIJAN IS A BULWARK OF WORLD PEACE
Ambassador said he was very much impressed with what he has seen in Azerbaijan. Describing Azerbaijan as a bulwark of world peace, ambassador regarded the tolerance in Azerbaijan as one of the factors that stipulate it and highlighted Allahshukur Pashazadeh�s services in achieving this.
�This example is of great significance for Belarus as representatives of various confessions live in my countries including Muslims. There are 8 mosques in Belarus with one more being built in Minsk,� said the diplomat.
Nikolay Patskevich said, �Azerbaijani Diaspora representatives enjoy prestige in Belarus and are actively involved in the social life of the country�
Sheikh ul-islam Allahshukur Pashazadeh stressed the importance of bilateral ties between the countries in the religious field and expressed hope that both countries will try their best to preserve their national interests.
The meeting also focused on other issues of mutual concern.
Croppage of grains in Belarus should be 7-7.1 mln. tonnes
According to the existing information by the moment the croppage is 5.5 mln. tonnes of grains. Agrarians should harvest grains from the area of 340.000 ha. Besides that, 550.000-600.000 tonnes would come from farmers and private enterprises. Thus, the croppage of grains should be 7-7.1 mln. tonnes.
Suspicions surround Lithuanian diplomat’s death in Belarus
From: Baltic Times
Pociunas, an adviser to the Lithuanian consulate general in Grodno, died while on a business trip to Brest in the early hours of Aug. 23. The diplomat’s body was discovered next to the Hotel Inturist. The 48-year-old was believed to have fallen out of a ninth-story window.
Yet Lithuanian politicians are not ruling out the possibility of murder, suggesting that the officer might have fallen victim to Belarusian special services.
An investigation by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office was launched immediately. The diplomat’s body, however, was returned to Lithuania on Aug. 25.
The State Security Department has also launched a probe into the circumstances in Brest, which is headed and organized by the Prosecutor General’s Office.
“This is an important case, and I am keeping an eye on the performance of our prosecutors and other services. Completion of the case and having all answers is a matter of our country’s good name,” Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas told journalists after meeting with Prosecutor General Algimantas Valantinas on Aug. 25.
But speculation surrounding the diplomat’s death has spread like wildfire.
An editorial column in Lietuvos Rytas noted that “if we reject the version of an accident, which is very unlikely, Pociunas’ death is a bloody challenge to our country. The state, just like every honest citizen, will not be able to feel safe until it is clear whom we have been challenged by.”
The daily noted that diplomats from EU countries, which Minsk sees as adversarial, have increasingly become victims of attacks in Belarus. Latvia, Lithuania and Poland actively participate in the formulation and implementation of EU policy towards Minsk, where it is “decried as an imperialist plot aimed at removing Alexander Lukashenko’s administration,” the paper opined.
“Thus the mysterious fall of Pociunas, a highly professional employee of the State Security Department, from the ninth floor of Hotel Inturist seems to be another part of the same chain,” the editorial went on.
The newspaper reminded that a Polish consular officer had been found beaten in his apartment in Grodno earlier this year. The diplomat later died. An investigation did not follow.
The incident follows a scandal involving a Latvian diplomat earlier this summer, when Belarus investigators entered and searched Janis Smits’ Minsk apartment in violation of diplomatic laws. Belarus’ interior minister subsequently accused Smits of distributing pornographic materials.
Latvia responded to the incident by expelling a Belarusian diplomat.
In Lithuania, Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas said that Vilnius was not considering a recall of its diplomats from Belarus. “We have no presumptions for such a move, and are not considering the possibility,” Vaitiekunas told the Baltic News Service on Aug. 25.
Asked whether security was at least stepped up at Lithuanian diplomatic missions following the incident, an anonymous Foreign Ministry official replied, “security is ensured.”
On the Belarusian side, the governmental news agency BELTA reported that forensics experts detected 1.9 promils of alcohol in Pociunas’ blood. BELTA said the results were determined based on a blood test.
However, Valantinas said he had not received an official report from Belarusian authorities about the test results.
“We have not received such information. I only heard this from the media,” said Valantinas.
After meeting with Kirkilas on Aug. 25, Valantinas refused to comment on blood test results by Lithuanian experts, saying the medical conclusions had not yet been received.
“A forensic examination has been conducted, and we will try searching for answers to the same questions as did the Belarusian authorities,” he said.
Justas Laucius, the Lithuanian prosecutor in charge of organized crime and corruption, has not yet returned from his investigation in Belarus.
Lietuvos Rytas emphasized the importance of solving the death, explaining the circumstances to the public as thoroughly as possible without disclosing state secrets.
“Efforts to suppress society’s desire to know the truth based on the argument of protecting state secrets will fail this time. The people of Lithuania must know what the officer, who had faithfully served the country, fell victim to,” the daily reports on Aug. 25.
A MORE COMPLETE PICTURE; Kim Zigfeld opines on the reality of Russia's GDP
From: La Russophobe
To its credit, RIA also reported that “Russia’s GDP still falls well behind other G8 economies. IMF preliminary estimates based on first quarter performance put Russia’s GDP for 2006 at $900 billion, compared to $13.2 trillion for the U.S., $4.42 trillion for Japan, $2.75 trillion for Germany, $2.23 trillion for Great Britain, $2.10 trillion for France, $1.75 trillion for Italy, and $1.26 trillion for Canada.”
What RIA failed to do, however, like most reports on Russia’s economy, was to put these two bits of data so that a clear overall picture is obtained. The percentage growth rate is totally meaningless to the citizens of a country; what matters is how much additional money got produced in the quarter. When we look at those figures, we see how pathetic Russia’s economic growth really is.
If Russia had 5.5% annual grown on a GDP of $900 million, than means the value of its economic growth in the first quarter of 2006 was 900 x (5.5/4%) or $12.375 billion. Japan, which has a populuation roughly comparable to Russia’s and has virtually no natural energy resources, posted 3.5% annual growth on a GDP of $4.42 trillion. So the value of Japan’s economic growth in the first quarter was 4,420 x (3.5/4%) or $38.675 billion. In other words, with an economic growth rate close to half that of Russia, Japan produced more than three times as much value for its population — and virtually none of that growth occurred because of the accident of rising world energy prices. In fact, Japan’s growth happened despite rising prices, which inhibited its industrial growth considerably. Japan’s growth, in other words, occurred across the breadth of the economy.
If you take energy prices out of Russia’s GDP growth, which is already puny compared to that of other G-8 nations in dollar terms, you are left with a figure that is negligable or non-existent even if you try to supplement it by using “purchasing power parity” formulations (which, as we have previously argued here, are bogus). This broad economic dynamism (driving employment and wage growth) and general lack of dollars available for Russian pockets will make it increasingly difficult for the Kremlin to preserve its power by means of bribery and more likely that it will resort to force as in Soviet times.
One might not be very surprised that a Russian wire service like RIA Novosti would provide an incomplete economic picture for Russia (although RIA is by far the best source of wire news coming out of the country), but this misperception is common in the Western press as well. Not until we have an accurate picture of what is going on in the Russian economy can we properly formulate policy towards Russia as it surges into dictatorship.
Puma to outfit Belarus football team for Europe-2008 qualifiers
During the signing ceremony Gennadiy Nevyglas noted, the BFF and the German company “are linked by years of fruitful and mutually beneficial co-operation”. “Over the time our German friends have proved they are reliable, serious partners of the Belarusian football, partners interested in its development,” he said.
Puma products are known worldwide thanks to the quality and bleeding-edge technologies, which advanced the company into the lead of the sports gear market. Gennadiy Nevyglas reminded, during the last world championship major teams wore the company’s gear, including Italy, the winning team.
Gennadiy Nevyglas was convinced, the contract will advance the sides to a more qualitative level of co-operation.
In turn, Horst Widmann underlined, Puma has been cooperating with the Belarusian Football Association for some 7 years and is sure of the Belarusian football’s great future. The vice president emphasised, in recent years the Belarusian Football Association had done a lot to raise young football players.
Horst Widmann believes, the Belarusian football team has great chances of passing the European championship qualifiers.
02.09.2006 v Albania (H) TBD
06.09.2006 v Netherlands (A) TBD
07.10.2006 v Romania (A) TBD
11.10.2006 v Slovenia (H) TBD
24.03.2007 v Luxembourg (A) TBD
02.06.2007 v Bulgaria (H) TBD
06.06.2007 v Bulgaria (A) TBD
08.09.2007 v Romania (H) TBD
12.09.2007 v Slovenia (A) TBD
13.10.2007 v Luxembourg (H) TBD
17.11.2007 v Albania (A) TBD
21.11.2007 v Netherlands (H) TBD
Group.......G Pld W D L GF GA Pts
Albania.....0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Bulgaria....0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Luxembourg..0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Netherlands 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Romania.....0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Belarus.....0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Slovenia....0 0 0 0 0 0 0