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Alexander Lukashenko: EU starts perceiving Belarus as equal partner
From: BelTA and the Office of the President
|Meeting with a delegation of the Movement of French Enterprises, MEDEF|
Attending the meeting was chief of the delegation Philippe Citerne, president of the France-Belarus council of the chiefs of enterprises at MEDEF International and Co-Chief Executive Officer of French banking group Societe General, representatives of such world famous companies as Accor (hotel business and services) Alcatel (telecommunications), Alstom holdings ( energy, transport), Veolia Environnement (utilities economy), Vicat (cement), Ingredia (food protein additives), Dehondt technologies (flax equipment) and others.
Founded in 1998, MEDEF International unites nearly one million industrial and trading organizations, banks, insurance companies, transportation agencies and others.
Recently there have been two meetings of MEDEF with Belarusian business delegations. In 2006, MEDEF met with representatives of the Mink union of entrepreneurs and employers and in 2007 with officials of the Belarusian chamber of commerce and industry.
In the opinion of Alexander Lukashenko, the present meeting smoothly fits the initiated process of invigorating the relations with European countries. The President also underscored he believes the present visit is a good sign of the expanding Belarusian-French relations, especially those in the trade and economic sphere. “At present Belarusian ministries are vigorously negotiating with the European Commission about energy and transport matters.
New contacts are established in agriculture, customs and nature protection, said the head of state.
“It is clear now that the European Union and several other international institutions as well as governments of European countries have begun to understand the importance of Belarus as an equal partner,” remarked Alexander Lukashenko. The opening of the European Commission representation in Minsk and the invitation for Belarus to partake in the Eastern Partnership initiative confirm it.
The head of state also pointed out the growing trade turnover between Belarus and the European Union. In January-November 2008 the trade exceeded $21 billion, almost 43% up on the same period of 2007. Belarusian-French foreign trade relations also demonstrate high growth. “It is a good base one can rely on to confidently advance. I am convinced that your economic and investment interest in Belarus is not accidental,” stressed Alexander Lukashenko.
The President pointed out that Belarus has preserved social and political stability, rapid economic growth and is creating extremely favorable conditions for foreign investors. “We can offer favorable terms for the capital that can be involved in the privatization of state property, development of small and medium-sized towns, free economic zones. We have taken unprecedented steps to abolish the clearance procedures related to the country of origins of goods. In 2009, we considerably simplified the taxation, introduced the declarative principle of company registration,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko added that a goal has been set in Belarus to enter top 30 countries of the World Bank’s Doing Business ranking. “We are convinced that the present day Belarus is an island of stability and the Belarusian companies are reliable and promising partners. I hope that during your visit this time you could see it with your own eyes,” Alexander Lukashenko underlined talking to the French businessmen. “I have no doubts that each one of you will leave Minsk not only with good memories, but with new ideas, projects which will be implemented on mutually beneficial terms and will bring the bilateral trade and economic cooperation on a brand new level in the near future.” The Belarusian President added that at present, when the whole world is in the grip of the financial crisis, it is essential that different countries and business communities unite their efforts. It also pertains to Belarus and France.
In general, according to the President, the ongoing visit of the French delegation to Belarus will help significantly step up the trade and economic interaction between the countries.
The President thanked Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus Mireille Musso for the efforts aimed at promoting the Belarusian-French relations. “I know views of France Ambassador Mireille Musso very well. The visit wouldn’t have happened without your efforts. I am very thankful to you for doing a lot for smoothing Belarus’ relations with France and the European Union within the short time you have been in the country,” the Belarusian head of state told the Ambassador of France.
Philippe Citerne who led the French delegation said: “We will be glad to see a Belarusian delegation in Paris”. In his words, French companies that work in Belarus recommend their partners in France to come over to Belarus and open business there.
MEDEF International is involved in telecommunications, construction, infrastructure, utilities, energy, banking and insurance services.
“If we reach an agreement, we will undoubtedly honour it. Someone might not like that we are negotiating for a long time, but if we strike a deal, we will not have any claims on you. If you set up new import-substituting and export-oriented productions in Belarus, you will get unprecedented benefits you will not find in any other country,” the President underlined.
The MEDEF delegation will stay in Belarus until January 27.
Belarus, EU interested in development of partnership relations
Belarus and the European Union underlined their interest in the further strengthening of the trust between them and development of mutually beneficial partnership relations, the Foreign Ministry’s press service told BelTA after Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov met with the European Union troika in Brussels on January 27.
The European side was represented by Karel Schwarzenberg, Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic that took over the EU Presidency on January 1, 2009, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, top-ranking officials of the European Commission and the Foreign Ministry of Sweden which will assume the EU Presidency in H2 2009.
The sides touched upon the progress take took place in the bilateral relations since the previous meeting between the Belarusian Minister and the EU troika in Luxemburg in October 2008, the Foreign Ministry underlined.
The participants of the meeting pointed out the positive trends in the development of the relations thanks to the reciprocal steps taken by Belarus and the EU in 2008. These trends remain in place.
The sides discussed the topical issues of the regional policy, including the Eastern Partnership project initiated by the EU.
The parties shared their views on the economic and energy issues. The EU delegation praised Belarus’ actions during the recent gas crisis which confirmed Belarus’ reputation as a reliable partner. The sides pointed out the substantial potential of the mutually beneficial cooperation in the energy area. A special attention was attached to the impact of the economic crisis on the development of the EU and Belarus and the measures to mitigate its consequences by a closer cooperation.
Indian President may visit Belarus
|Indian president Pratibha Patil|
Sergei Terentyev stressed that bilateral cooperation has been boosted after the President of Belarus paid a visit to India in April 2007. Today the two sides have been implementing the agreements reached at the high level.
Charge d’Affairs ad Interim of India to Belarus Anil Kumar said that the two countries had established very good relations of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation, developed cultural links. The Minsk House of Friendship which hosts regular Indian cultural events has been greatly contributing to the development of relations.
According to Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Belarusian Society of Friendship and Cultural Links with Foreign Countries Nina Ivanova, the two nations have different history, culture and traditions, what do not, however, hamper the development of cultural relations. The interest of Belarusians in the original Indian culture and art is on a constant increase. Minsk art amateurs get familiar with Indian dances and songs at the traditional gatherings in the House of Friendship.
Belarus, Cuba discuss political, economic cooperation in Minsk
In a related story, Ways to step up Belarusian-Cuban relations were discussed in Minsk on January 25-27 during a visit of the delegation of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs led by Deputy Foreign Minister Dagoberto Rodriguez, BelTA learnt from representatives of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.
While in Minsk the Cuban delegation held meetings and negotiations at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus. Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Martynov received the delegation. The head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry received an invitation from the Foreign Minister of Cuba, which is presiding over the Non-Aligned Movement, to take part in a ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement Coordinating Bureau in Havana in April 2009.
During negotiations with Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus Sergei Aleinik the sides discussed the state and prospects of the bilateral cooperation in political, trade, economic and other spheres in detail. Special attention was paid to the preparation of a regular session of the Belarusian-Cuban commission for trade and economic cooperation. The session is supposed to take place in Minsk this year.
The Foreign Ministry told BelTA, in January-November 2008 Belarus-Cuba trade totalled $49.2 million, with export as high as 34.7 million and import as high as $14.5 million. The foreign trade surplus made up $20.2 million. Belarus supplied buses, tractors, potash fertilisers, combustion engines, and trucks to Cuba, mainly importing raw sugar and vaccines.
Belarus, Israel may abolish visa fees
Belarus and Israel are working on a draft document, which provides for abolishing fees for visa services, Ambassador of Israel to Belarus Eduard Shapira told media on January 27.
According to the diplomat, a delegation of the consular affairs department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already visited Minsk to discuss the possibility.
“We are considering the abolishment of visa fees at the initial stage. At the second stage we will consider the abolishment of visas. But it will require some time,” underscored the Ambassador. He also added visa-free travels may be introduced in the future. Eduard Shapira reminded, Israel introduced visa-free travels from and to Russia on September 20, 2008. “We started with Russia because it is a large country, which has major influence on the tourism industry. We should gather experience, analyse it to determine the approach to other CIS states,” added the Ambassador of Israel.
Eduard Shapira told the press he is in favour of stepping up travel communications as well as interpersonal contacts between the two nations. “I would like both the Israel and Belarusian peoples to know more about each other,” said the Ambassador.
In his words, this year the 100th anniversary of the city of Tel-Aviv will be marked and relevant celebrations will take place in Belarus among other places.
Easy access to Belarus’ border zone as from February 5
New rules for visiting the Belarusian border zone will become valid on February 5, 2009. According to them, to go to the border zone a Belarusian will only have to pay a state due of 0,2 basic amount (now it is equal to Br35,000) and receive the relevant permission at any border post according to the declarative principle. The same rules will be applied to foreign citizens and stateless persons permanently residing in Belarus.
Foreign citizens who have come to Belarus will have to apply to the State Border Committee or a border regiment, for a permit to go to the border zone. The permit will be issued within five or seven days.
Mikhail Oksenuk noted some categories of people will be banned from entering the border zone. These are persons under criminal prosecution and those who have violated the border crossing regulations twice a year.
According to the representative of the border department, the State Border Committee has initiated the move to reduce the border zone from 50 kilometres to 10-15 kilometres. This will contribute to the development of tourism and economy of the frontier regions.
Role of Belarusian mass media in promoting tolerance to be discussed in Minsk
Attending the roundtable will be heads and personnel of the Belarusian mass media, UNHCR Office in Belarus.
The high level of the legal culture of the population, favourable social situation, absence of tension are the distinctive features of the Belarusian society. At the same time, there are some problems connected with increasing migration flows. According to the organizers of the roundtable, mass media should play an active role in addressing these problems.
The winners of the contest for the best coverage of the topic “Refugees’ Problems: Myths and Realities” will be awarded during the roundtable.
Belarus to partake in Moscow Infoforum
A Belarusian delegation is going to take part in the 11th national information security Infoforum that is due in Moscow on January 29-30. The event will be held under the motto “International Security in the Global Information Society”, BelTA learnt from Alexander Saprykin, member of the organizing committee.
In his words, Belarus has always taken an active part in Moscow information security forums. This time the Belarusian delegation will be led by Vladimir Kuzhanov, Chairman of the Permanent Commission for the International Affairs and Relations with the CIS under the House of Representatives. The delegation will consist of officials and the personnel of the High-Tech Park, the State Secretariat of the Security Council, the Operational and Analytical Centre under the President of the Republic of Belarus, the National Academy of Sciences, the Interior Ministry and Belarusian State University.
In particular, High-Tech Park Director Valery Tsepkalo will deliver his report “Measures for developing national competitive ability in the global financial crisis: experience of Belarus”. Outstanding Belarusian cryptographer Yuri Kharin will act as a co-host of the section “Information Security in the Higher School”.
The forum embraces a number of sessions, roundtables, sections. According to Alexander Saprykin, Belarus’ participation in the forum is important taking into account the fact that in late May Belarus introduced a law on information, informational support and information protection. “The law prohibits governmental establishments as well as any other organisation working with the personnel data to use information systems without necessary security measures. Protective means, in turn, should be certified in Belarus. The Russian experience in the area can be very useful,” the specialist said.
Zepter to open insurance and leasing companies in Belarus
At present, the Belarusian Government and Zepter Group are discussing the construction of a business centre in Minsk. The cost of the construction is estimated at EUR 200 million.
Zepter Group intends to set up the company which will give an advisory opinion regarding privatization in Belarus. According to Philip Zepter, his company is interested in the Belarusian industry and especially the processing industry. He expressed the interest in development of business relations with Belarusian companies. “The global financial crisis has affected your country to a lesser extent. Even during this time, Belarus is attractive for investing,” he noted.
Sergei Sidorsky said that he met Philip Zepter during the Belarus Investment Forum in London. The Belarusian Premier welcomes Zepter’s intention to open insurance and leasing companies in Belarus as insurance and leasing businesses are underdeveloped in the country.
Sergei Sidorsky noted that this country has been working on the privatization of companies in various branches of the economy. According to Sergei Sidorsky, this year this work will be continued to help potential investors to implement their projects in Belarus. Addressing Philip Zepter, the Prime Minister expressed confidence that the decisions which will be passed today will help Zepter Group to develop its business in Belarus.
A reminder, in 2008 Zepter Bank was registered in Belarus. Its authorized capital makes up $17 million and within a year Zepter Group intends to increase it. In the future, Zepter Group intends to open 20 bank’s offices all around Belarus. According to Philip Zepter, the bank should give an impetus to all the projects of Zepter Group in Belarus.
Zepter Group was founded in Austria in 1986. Zepter Group produces, sells and distributes exclusive high-quality consumer goods around the world. Philip Zepter is the owner and the President of Zepter Group. The annual revenue of the company is around EUR1 billion. The total cost of the company is estimated at several billions of euros. Zepter Group is composed of more than 100 companies which are engaged in production, sales, real estate, banking and insurance businesses.
Caterpillar interested in cooperation with BelAZ and Minsk Engine Works
The US company Caterpillar has shown its interest in the cooperation with BelAZ and Minsk Engine Works, said vice president of the company Michael Baunton as he met with Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky on January 27, BelTA has learnt.
The company’s delegation spent two days in Belarus during which they visited Minsk Engine Works and BelAZ. The Caterpillar specialists decided to spend another day in BelAZ. Michael Baunton informed that an engines expert will stay one more day at Minsk Engine Works, too. On January 27, the company’s representatives are to discuss the results of their visit.
Since its inception in 1925, Caterpillar has grown to be the world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. In 2008, the company posted a profit of $50 billion. The company employs 100,000 people worldwide. The 150 production facilities of the enterprise are present on the five continents.
Caterpillar came to the Soviet market in 1973. In 2005, the company launched its activities in the CIS member states. It has set up 4 offices in Moscow, Vladivostok, Khabarovks and Alma-Ata. The company’s distribution network with the branches encompasses more than 100 cities and towns of the CIS with the total of 3,500 employees.
Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation has offices in Russia to assist in product financing as well as supporting projects in the CIS region. It is the first western machine-building concern that set up production facilities manufacturing components in the town of Tosno (the Leningrad oblast) in 2000. More than 700 people are involved in the technological processes and logistics. The first hydraulic excavator was assembled at the company's facility in Tosno in August 2008.
Founded in September 1948, BelAZ mainly offers rock haulers, frontal wheel loaders and bulldozers, tow trucks, special vehicles for underground operations, heavy payload trucks for metallurgy industry and other specialized technological vehicles. Over its history the company has designed over 400 modifications of rock haulers, with the capacity ranging from 27 to 320 tonnes.
Minsk Engine Works is one the CIS leading manufacturers of diesel engines for commercial transport, tractors and special vehicles. The company offers four and six-cylinder row engines of various capacity. MMZ supplies its products to 26 assembly lines of Russian mechanical engineering companies. The company was established in 1963.
EU Says Belarus 'Halfway' In Eastern Partnership Project
|EU External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner greets Belarusian Foreign Minister Martynau at the EU Troika meeting in Brussels on January 27. |
The bloc is eager to have Minsk participate fully in its proposed Eastern Partnership -- an initiative that is part of the EU's Neighborhood Policy, designed to offer six ex-Soviet states an alternative to Russian influence -- and has been watching Belarus closely in recent months.
The EU's suspension of a travel ban on 41 of the country's top officials and accompanying sanctions in October was a gamble -- an "advance," in the words of one EU official -- designed to test the waters.
If Minsk pushed ahead with the reforms requested by Brussels, it would also signal a willingness to turn away from Russia.
That, in turn, would allow Belarus to join Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine in becoming a full member of the EU's Eastern Partnership program -- and Brussels to complete a ring of six friendly countries between itself and Moscow.
EU officials hinted in Brussels that the gamble might be paying off, saying Belarus has reacted to the prospect of Eastern Partnership membership with "great interest."
Public V. Private Assessments
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU's external relations commissioner, said after the January 27 talks with Martynau that the dialogue was "encouraging."
"Of course, we're halfway, so to say, with Belarus," Ferrero-Waldner said, "but we see that they are taking important steps that go in the right direction."
Ferrero-Waldner cited a promise from the Belarusian government to simplify registration procedures for the country's media. The EU has received assurances that independent media outlets will soon need only to notify authorities by mail in order to be registered -- a far simpler procedure than the massive documentation required in the past.
Privately, however, EU diplomats say there has been little concrete evidence of reforms in Belarus. EU delegations that have traveled to Minsk since the October have reported an improved "atmosphere" for EU-Belarusian relations, but have seen few concrete reforms.
Martynau did not address his country's record on reforms during this latest meeting, saying only that Minsk expected the Eastern Partnership to be a collaboration of "equals."
"I expressed our positive attitude to the idea and concept of the Eastern Partnership, our positive appreciation of the document as it is now, and our expectation that when it will be finalized it will contain the necessary provisions for equal multilateral participation of countries -- because the Eastern Partnership has to be, by definition, inclusive," Martynau said. "If it is not inclusive, it loses its whole sense -- this is the thinking."
The EU, for its part, wants to give Minsk every chance to cooperate. European officials avoided any public criticism of President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime following their meeting.
In past years, the bloc has maintained an almost isolationist stance on Belarus. But EU officials were quick to reverse that policy in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war in August.
By early autumn, there was consensus within the EU that the bloc had to do everything it could to prevent losing Minsk irretrievably to an increasingly aggressive Moscow.
Even as it slammed Belarus's September parliamentary elections as undemocratic, it offered a six-month suspension of the visa ban that had grounded 41 of the country's top decision-makers since 2004.
The bloc then offered Minsk a stake in its Eastern Partnership program. An extension of the European Neighborhood Policy, the initiative will be formally unveiled by EU leaders at a summit in March.
Another summit will then take place with the Eastern Partnership countries in Prague on May 7. If he plays his cards right, Lukashenka could be in attendance, participating alongside his colleagues from the remaining five partnership states.
To do so, Belarus will have to make progress on the five conditions the EU set out in October. These include reform of the Electoral Code, and concrete action to safeguard democratic values, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms -- including those of expression and assembly.
EU officials indicate the bloc would initially be content with relatively minor advances.
Minsk Presses Onward
Having set out on a path of reconciliation with Belarus, a number of factors will make it difficult for the EU to return to a more isolationist stance.
First, a number of its eastern member states have made winning over Belarus a political priority. For the EU, where foreign policy remains a national matter, this is something the bloc cannot ignore.
Second, the EU's own prestige is at stake. Diplomats in Brussels fear a cash-strapped Minsk could easily succumb to a gas deal being dangled before it by Moscow.
Ukraine's current woes as a transit country certainly serve as a considerable temptation for Belarus to net more of the lucrative gas transit in Russia's energy sales to Europe.
Ferrero-Waldner indicated on January 27 that Minsk is already trying to exploit the situation in its favor.
"In energy, [Belarusian officials] of course have a great interest maybe to also be one of our energy suppliers in future," Ferrero-Waldner said. "There are ideas there that they have -- on transit, exactly."
Third, the EU's window of opportunity is narrow. The eastern neighborhood is of considerable interest to both the Czech Republic and Sweden, both of whom will have held the EU's rotating presidency this year. But 2010 will see those roles go to Spain and Belgium, neither of which is likely to consider it a priority issue.
Then there is the fact that EU officials feel the Eastern Partnership program depends on Belarus's participation to succeed. Without it, they say, the project's central "multilateral" dimension, and much of its geopolitical leverage, would be lost.
Finally, there is the EU's own bureaucratic inertia. At no point in its history has the bloc revived sanctions after suspending them. Revoking a suspension requires a unanimous decision that is difficult to achieve.
A major EU worry has been Russian pressure on Belarus to recognize the breakaway Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries. The Belarusian parliament is scheduled to discuss the issue in April. Even so, diplomats say that even if Belarus decided to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it would not necessarily mean the offer to join the Eastern Partnership would be withdrawn. Paradoxically, Georgia's strongest advocates within the EU are the same countries that now argue for closer links to Belarus.
OSCE Office head hails intensified dialogue between Belarus, EU
|Hans Jochen Schmidt|
“I believe Belarus is very interested in relations with the European Union. Belarus is in a very important geopolitical situation and that’s why it is to everyone’s interest to develop relations with your country,” he told reporters in Minsk on Tuesday while commenting on coming talks between Belarusian Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynaw and EU officials in Brussels.
Mr. Schmidt noted that the Belarusian minister had met with the EU “troika” in Luxembourg last October and the Brussels talks would be the second such meeting. “I think this is a positive sign,” he said.
The diplomat said that the European Union would assess “the quality” of its relations with Minsk in March and a conference on the EU’s Eastern Partnership program would take place in May. He predicted that Belarus would be actively involved in the program.
While talking about the OSCE Office’s near-future plans, Mr. Schmidt said that it would take part in a round-table conference on media development scheduled for early February and study the possibility of the implementation of recommendations for improving election regulations made by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.
Speaking at a workshop on border issues that opened in Minsk on January 27, the diplomat stressed that the EU viewed Belarus as a reliable transit country and intended to cooperate with the country in the spheres of transport and energy.
He praised Belarus for increasing gas deliveries through its territory amid a dispute between Russia and Ukraine earlier this month. “Ukraine plays the most important role in gas transportation to the European Union but in that situation Belarus showed that it is capable of raising gas deliveries through its territory in the interests of Western consumers,” Mr. Schmidt said.
Lukashenka earmarks $516 million for measures to increase financial stability of agricultural sector
The edict specifies how the national fund for support of agricultural producers in 2009 should be used.
The fund's revenues in 2009 are expected to total almost 2,500 billion rubels, or 22 percent more than was projected in the government's rural revival program for this year, said the presidential press office.
Under the edict, 10 percent of the total amount is to be spent on nationwide projects and 90 percent on measures to support the agricultural sector at the regional level.
The funds are reportedly distributed depending on the contribution to the nation's Gross Domestic Product, the area of farmland, and its cadastral value.
Projects aimed at increasing the efficiency of the agricultural sector and the farm produce processing industry will be prioritized, the press office said.
Cuba-Belarus Relations Excellent
From: Prensa Latina
In the meeting, Rodriguez thanked Martynov for the active support of his government to the Cuban people"s struggle against the US blockade, and for the aid offered to palliate the damage caused by three devastating hurricanes last year.
The Belarusian minister praised Cuba"s work as current leader of the Non-aligned Movement, and appreciated Havana"s permanent support to Minsk in several multilateral forums.
The two sides also analyzed prospects of mutual ties, with particular attention on inter-chancellery exchanges and other areas of cooperation such as public health, medicals services, and transport
Belarusian satanic cult leader arrested in central Russia
From: Ria Novosti
According to the Federal Investigative Committee's reports, the cult leader, whose name has not been released, is a 24-year-old medical student from Belarus. He was arrested on Saturday on charges of organizing an illegal group that infringes on the rights of an individual. He faces a sentence of up to two years if convicted.
Investigators said the members rented a house where they "conducted cult ceremonies, including illegal acts of alcoholic binge drinking, sexual practices and antisocial behavior."
"During the probe, investigators confiscated a large amount of cult and satanic literature, documents of a religious character in Latin, as well as the organization's charter and member list," the report read.
Statement on Nasha Viasna registration
The decision by the Supreme Court of Belarus of 28 January 2003 to liquidate the human rights center Viasna was an outrage against the freedom of association, guaranteed by the Belarusian Constitution and international human rights agreements. On 24 June 2007 the UN Human Rights Committee adopted a resolution, stating that by closing down Viasna the Belarusian authorities violated Article 22-1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In its resolution the UNHCC confirmed Viasna’s right to adequate means of legal protection, including re-registration and compensation. It also obliged the Belarusian government to take precautions against similar violations in future.
Guided by the Committee’s decision, Members of the human rights center Viasna declared that the official registration of the organization would be an adequate compensation for the rights violated by the authorities, and in August 2007 applied for registration of the human rights association Viasna.
However, the Belarusian government failed to correct its fault and ignored the decision by an authoritative international structure by showing contempt of the rights of its citizens and international commitments.
The Ministry of Justice and later the Supreme Court of Belarus denied the right to found an association due to trivial and groundless reasons.
Making another attempt to obtain state registration from the Ministry of Justice, the founders of the human rights association Nasha Viasna call upon the Belarusian authorities to maintain the constitutional rights of Belarusian citizens, as well as its international commitments in the field of human rights.
In case Nasha Viasna is denied registration due to trivial and groundless reasons, the founders of the association will consider it as an evidence of a systematic political discrimination by the Republic of Belarus and its inability to introduce comprehensive changes, aimed at further liberalization of its political and civil system, including the filed of the freedom of association.
Founders of the Public Human Rights Association Nasha Viasna:
Minsk, 26 January 2009
Human rights council to be created by Lukashenka According to Radio Racyja, a public human rights council is about to be founded by the president’s administration. As yet, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee is the only organization to have been offered cooperation.
The council is likely to hold two sessions a month.
In a related story,
Belarusian dictatorship has no intention of carrying out EU requirements
From: Charter '97
“The Eastern Partnership program should be all-encompassing by default. If it is not comprehensive, there is no sense in it,” Belarusian Foreign Minister said.
Earlier when publishing programs of the Eastern Partnership for Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and Ukraine, the European Commission stated that for full-fledged participation in the program Belarus was to fulfill a number of conditions for democratization of the society and economy’s liberalization.
“I emphasized our positive attitude to the idea itself, the concept of the Eastern Partnership as it is now and our expectations that when the document is ready, it will contain the necessary regulations for equal multilateral partnership of countries,” Martynau stressed.
As said by him, at the session of “Troika” economic and energy cooperation was discussed as well.
The current formula of the Eastern Partnership is 27+5 (6). Full participation of Belarus is still open to question. The decision on Belarus is to be taken in spring depending on the progress of the country in democracy.
One of these days Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, stated that Belarus won’t be able to join the Eastern Partnership without democratic reforms.
“The Eastern Partnership is our offer to 6 Eastern countries. Belarus hasn’t been included there, as in reality there are many concerns as for its democratic character,” the European Commissioner said.
Recently the Charge d'affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission to Belarus Jean-Eric Holzapfel stated that requirements of the EU for Belarus’ democratization are still remaining in force.
As we have informed, 12 requirements of the European Union were adopted in November 2006. But on October 13, 2008 the European Union adopted a decision to lift visa sanctions against Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his officials for half a year, to renew political contacts with the official Minsk and open new possibilities for cooperation. 5 basic requirements were chosen out of 12 conditions. They are issues of political prisoners, free and democratic elections and electoral legislation, mass media and two points concerning existence and functioning non-governmental organisations, freedom of association and freedom of meetings.
Russian Orthodox Church chooses leader
|Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad|
More than 700 delegates including 46 delegates from the Belarusian eparchies are taking part in the secret voting.
Senior members of the Russian Orthodox Church have drawn up a shortlist of three contenders to succeed Patriarch Alexy II who died last year. These are the interim leader Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk and Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk Filaret. Participants of the Council have decided not to nominate additional candidatures. Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk Filaret has withdrawn his candidature from the elections.
After the voting procedure, the Council will count the votes. The name of the new 16th Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia is expected to be announced in the late evening January 27.
Metropolitan Filaret withdrew his candidature from patriarchal election
Metropolitan Filaret of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus withdrew his candidature from the elections of Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, spokesman for the Moscow Patriarchate Vladimir Vigilyansky told reporters on January 27, BelTA has learnt.
According to him, Metropolitan Filaret called on those who voted for him at the Council of Senior Church leaders to give their votes for Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, the acting head of the Church.
Thus there remained two candidatures for the post of Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia: Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad and Metropolitan Kliment of Kaluga and Borovsk.
The elections of the new Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia were held in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
Don't reinterpret WW2, Russia tells neighbors
"We should be tougher in defending our positions, to tell our partners the whole truth about falsifications of history, glorifying Nazi criminals in neighboring states," he told a meeting with government officials and public figures.
"There is no room for diplomatic niceties. I want the foreign ministry to take a more aggressive stance."
Medvedev was in St Petersburg for celebrations marking 65 years since the Red Army lifted in a 900-day Nazi siege of Russia's second city, then known as Leningrad.
Historians say up to a million died in the siege, most from hunger, as Nazi forces deliberately bombed food warehouses in an attempt to starve the city into submission.
The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union caused major splits in Russian society, but the Red Army's key role in defeating Nazi Germany remains one of the few unifying elements in Russia's turbulent history.
Medvedev, in office since last May, faces an acute economic crisis and a need for stability in the face of hardships. Memories of the war, he told the gathering, could be a consolidating element.
"The legacy of victory is not only history, it is a powerful resource to develop the state further," he said.
Medevedev said Russia still had to establish whether the latest estimate of 27 million Soviet war dead was accurate. The number of dead in nearly half of Russia's nine million mass war graves, he said, was still unknown.
BALTIC STATES, UKRAINE
Events in World War Two are actively debated in several ex-Soviet states, especially Ukraine and the Baltic states of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.
Russia views this debate as an attempt by its neighbors to distance themselves from Moscow and break traditional ties which outlived the Russian empire and the Soviet Union.
"We see distortions of the truth about the war, about the decisive contribution by the Red Army to the defeat of the Nazism and the liberation of Europe," Medvedev said. "Our task is to oppose such falsifications in every way."
The Baltic states, annexed by Moscow shortly before World War Two, view the conflict as a clash of two totalitarian regimes in which small nations had to survive.
Veterans who fought in specially formed Baltic Nazi SS Waffen divisions are still honored as national heroes.
Showing the different views of history, Estonia in 2007 moved a World War Two Red Army memorial from the center of its capital to a military cemetery, sparking anger in Moscow.
Ukraine's pro-Western leaders have called for legal recognition of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which numbered 40,000 at its height fighting both Soviet and Nazi forces, with isolated bands resisting Kremlin rule well into the 1950s.
Soviet veterans' groups fiercely oppose such recognition.
Obama, Medvedev agree on need to improve ties
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier on Tuesday he expected the two leaders to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in London in April.
"President Obama and President Medvedev spoke about the importance of stopping the drift in U.S.-Russia relations and building a serious agenda for their bilateral relationship," the White House statement said.
The statement underscored the White House's recognition that relations between the two countries had deteriorated in recent years under Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, and former Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A statement from the Kremlin press service on the same phone call said the two sides had agreed to do "everything in their power to restore Russia-American relations to their full potential."
Russian-U.S. relations have been strained over U.S. plans to build a missile shield in Eastern Europe, a move Russia strongly opposes, and over Russia's brief war with the North Caucus republic of Georgia, a close U.S. ally.
"The presidents agreed that, as they were both new leaders from a post-Cold War generation they have a unique opportunity to establish a fundamentally different kind of relationship between the two countries," the White House said.
It said Obama had also stressed the importance of cooperation between the world's major economic powers to tackle global economic turmoil.
Yet another detention in Polish football corruption investigation
From: Polski Radio
The Central Investigation Bureau will level over 40 charges against the Andrzej B., who is being taken Wroclaw, south-western Poland, for questioning. He will be accused of fixing football matches during the 2005/2006 season.
The major inquiry into corruption in Polish football was launched in 2005, with the prosecutor's office in Wroclaw leveling charges against over 180 people, including referees, coaches and players.
Minister Klich denies he is in danger of the sack
From: The News
Press reports accused Klich of financing his wife's foundation, the Strategic Studies Institute, from the National Treasury resources.
"It was a blow to our hearts," said Klich, underlining that the Prime Minister did not mentioned anything about his impending dismissal.
"[PM Tusk] has the right reshuffle his ministers. I'm a loyal minister and I will do whatever he asks me to," he said, adding that if the prime minister wants him to resign, he will not hesitate to stand down.
Klich denied putting National Treasury money into his wife's foundation. Bogdan Klich was appointed Minister of National Defence on 15 November 2007 and the following day gave his role as chief of Strategic Studies Institute and replaced by his wife on January 2008.
The head of the Prime Minister's political cabinet Slawomir Nowak has also denied that the minister is in danger of being sacked, saying that Klich is a good member of the government who performs his duties well.
The allegations against Klich and speculation that he will be dismissed comes only days after PM Tusk asked for and obtained the resignation of Justice Minister Zbigniew Cwiakalski.
Divorce fair to take place in Warsaw
From: Polskie Radio
Some 30 exhibitors, including private detectives, lawyers, sexologists and even companies conducting DNA tests, are to present their services at the fair.
The idea of divorce fairs is new in Poland and it comes from Austria, where they are held under the banner of A new beginning. In Poland the first event of this kind was held in the western city of Wroclaw in September.
The thematic scope of the fair is an answer to the current ‘market demand’, claim the advertising experts.
And ‘market’ demand in Poland is growing pretty fast. According to data of the Central Statistical Office (GUS), every third marriage in Poland ends in divorce. In 2007 as many as 65,000 married couples split up, which is 20,000 more that ten years ago.
Serena advances after Azarenka retires
From: Boston Globe
The 19-year-old from Belarus was one of three players who had to withdraw from fourth-round matches on a sunny but mild day, with temperatures hovering around 75 degrees.
The second-seeded Williams was up a service break at 4-2 in the second set after No. 13 Azarenka had won the first set, 6-3.
Azarenka, serving at 30-30, wobbled back into the shade at the rear of the court, holding her face and choking back tears.
She had needed a medical timeout earlier in the set and left the playing arena. She returned for 1 1/2 games but was unable to continue and was helped from the court soon after by two trainers.
"I just want to go inside and make sure she's OK. I feel so bad. She was playing so well," Williams said in an on-court interview. "There are so many more great Australian Opens out there for her."
Officials said Azarenka was suffering from dizziness and an "undisclosed illness."
Williams, seeking a 10th major singles title, next plays 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova, who advanced when Zheng Zie retired at 4-1 in the first set. No. 22 Zheng injured her left wrist when she tumbled after the third game. She had treatment immediately but retired two games later.
Azarenka appeared to become ill after pulling within 3-2 in the second set and went off court. Williams took advantage of the time to get her ankles retaped.
Акварельные города вместо индустриальных деревень
Минск – «провинциальная столица»
Освоение города может идти по двум направлениям – по пространственному, и по эмоциональному. Пространственное освоение - это «поглощение» архитектуры города, оценка развитости инфраструктуры и качества городской среды. Эмоциональное освоение заключается в постижении духовной ауры города, в ощущении его внутренних ритмов, погружение в городскую среду. Эта эмоциональная составляющая создается самим Городом, и поддерживается путешественниками, распространяющими городской миф по свету: Париж – город влюбленных, Нью-Йорк – деловая столица мира, Милан – столица моды, Витебск – город художников. В ряду других городов Минск запоминается ощущением «провинциальной столицы». У него все ещё отсутствуют недостатки современного мегаполиса – грязь, шум, «пробки», маргиналы, спешка. В полной мере имеются достоинства – политический, экономический и культурный центр, развитая инфраструктура, обеспечение товарами и услугами согласно статусу столицы и т.п.
Фотографии стали основными средствами формирования представлений о городском пространстве. Продумывая маршрут для моего гостя в Минске, я не забывала, об этой цели. Исходной точкой будущего маршрута стало здание Красного костёла, а от него до площади Победы полюбуемся на сталинский ампир. По набережной Свислочи наш путь пройдёт к Троицкому предместью - микротерритория старой Европы с мощенными и романтически обшарпанными двориками. Из Троецкого по улице Сторожевской к панорамной точке у свежепостроеного здания банка «Минск-Москва»: вид действительно потрясающий. По проспекту Победителей прогуляемся к Верхнему городу и Ратуше и посидим во французской кондитерской. Из парков я выбрала Лошицкий – старый, атмосферный парк с музеем усадьбой и Ботанический сад с Оранжереей, которые, однако, хороши весной и осенью. Однако при грамотной организации визита, этой программой можно наполнить один день.
Собственно, это всё! Я приуныла. Думаю, для организации второго дня пребывания гостя столицы были открыты Дудудки. А затем придется уговаривать его уехать из Минска подальше – Беловежская пуща, Березинский заповедник, Браславские озера, центр старого Гродно, Мирский замок – все это можно и нужно посмотреть, чтобы узнать и понять Беларусь, но Минск, Минск… Не торговыми же центрами и бутиками удивишь бывалого туриста?
У визуальной культуры города есть и повседневное, обыденное измерение, которое не совпадает с «официальным» образом города. Интерес представляет «Минск-совковый» - почти девственные остатки советской материальной цивилизации. Это городское пространство, возникшие в послевоенный период: обширные промышленные зоны, где у проходных высится вечно живой Ильич, кварталы невысоких домов с тихими дворами и узкими тенистыми улицами. Рядом – выросшие в 70-х жилые комплексы. Дома повыше, поновее, поинтереснее – как те, что высятся через проспект напротив Национальной библиотеки. В них вкраплены ставшие слишком незначительными по размерам универсамы, типовые школы, поликлиники, кинотеатры. А кое-где Минск советский переходит в «поселки», вроде того, что начинается на улице Орловской: полудеревенские дома, халупы сараев и заборы, за которыми лают злые собаки. А уже за этими красотами открываются бетонные ущелья спальных районов: Зеленый Луг, Шабаны, Серебрянка, Юго-запад. Под окнами первых этажей встречаются крохотные палисадники и кусты сирени. Во дворе на лавочках сидят бабушки в платочках, иногда затягивающие что-то заунывно-народное. В проплешинах между микрорайонами, путем самозахвата, освоены картофельные посадки. Такая вот индустриальная деревня с населением 2 миллиона.
Комфорт искусственной среды против истёртого асфальта
Каждый областной центр, каждый городок на периферии – тоже индустриальная деревня: пару реликтовых домов эпохи Речи Посполитой, главная площадь с бывшей резиденцией партийного начальства и Ильичом в придачу, заводы, невысокие дома, жилые комплексы 70-х, «поселки».
В современном городе, с комфортной искусственной средой обитания начисто отсутствуют памятники истории и живая природа. Подобное городское пространство создано для дела, его удобно осваивать целеустремленным и энергичным, у которых нет времени на пустое времяпровождение на лавочке под липами. Соприкоснуться с духом старины, мы едем в другие европейские города, возможно даже принадлежащие другим цивилизациям, хотя населяют его наши современники, а расположены они иногда в нескольких десятках километров. После индустриальных деревень пространство старинного города тихое и уютное (маленькие зеленые дворики, невысокие дома вокруг площади с древним собором).
Спор о преобразовании городского пространства, это спор между практиками, осваивающими его с целью сделать комфортным по современным меркам, и теоретиками, стремящимися сохранить старину. Турист хочет, и качества городской инфраструктуры посмотреть, и запечатлеть аутентичный образ города. Как добиться компромисса - дело структур, которые занимаются
Сейчас общественную жизнь многих городов будоражат дебаты вокруг сноса ветхих зданий и даже целых кварталов. На их месте, как правило, возводятся некие сооружения из стекла и бетона в стиле «постмодерн». Они современны и комфортны. Но бизнес центры и жилые комплексы в Гонконге, Нью-Йорке и где-нибудь в Нью-Васюках столь же мало отличаются друг от друга, как продукция сети ресторанов «Макдоналдс», расположенных в тех же городах. Протесты обеспокоенной общественности сотрясают Москву, Одессу, Петербург, Минск, Гродно, Витебск.
Очевидно, что город не является набором зданий и не всегда соответствует тому образу, какой пытались воплотить в жизнь градостроители. Маршрут прогулки по городу, запечатленный с помощью фотоаппарата, может показать иной образ города. Часто туриста могут заинтересовать не только официально признанные достопримечательности, но и те объекты, которые ему кажутся необычными или примечательными: трамваи, мусорные урны необычной формы, помойки, пятиэтажные «хрущёвки», городские огороды и пр. Турист на повседневном уровне формирует свое видение и свой образ города и разносит его по миру. Однако хотелось бы, что бы туристы увозили из Беларуси фотографии по-европейски уютных, акварельных городов, вместо серых индустриальных деревень.
Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians are 'Not Cousins Let Alone Brothers,' Mensk Historians Say
From: Georgian Daily
Instead, the Belarusian group led by Anatoly Taras says, the historical record amply demonstrates that the three are "not cousins let alone brothers," a position that has consequences not only for the self-definition of each of these nations but also for their political relationship to each other and to the larger world (www.charter97.org/ru/news/2009/1/24/14367/).
Taras and his colleague Oleg Trusov made those comments as their collective monograph, "The History of Imperial Relations: Belarusians and Russians, 1772-1999" (in Russian, Smolensk, 2009), went into its second printing because the first sold out in less than a week (gazetaby.com/index.php?&sn_nid=18714&sn_cat=35).
Taras said the book was being published in Russian to reach a larger number of readers not only in Belarus but in the Russian Federation and abroad, and Trusov suggested that the book is likely to be purchased by members of the Belarus diaspora, who are interested in their national past but who have "forgotten their native language."
But Taras suggested that the book and others like it were playing a key role among Belarusians in Belarus, most of whom lack a full understanding of their nation and its past. "For the last 200 years," he continued, "almost everything which makes possible national self-identification has been stripped from the memory of the residents of Belarus."
"Despite Belarus' acquisition of independence in 1991," the book's introduction argues, "the country is considered by Russian society through the prism of old myths and dogmas. Even certain Belarusians still believe that they are part of the Great Russian Nation and received from it their language, religion, culture, art and in general civilization.'
Such a view is fundamentally wrong, the authors of the chapters in the book insist, "Russians, Belarusians and Ukrainians are three absolutely different ethnic communities," "different genetically, psychologically and historically," Taras says. And if the Belarusians are to have a future, they must understand their distinctive past.
Another key idea of the book is that "the entire history of the Muscovite state is one of uninterrupted expansion, 800 years of constant aggression. The dynasties have changed from the Rurikides to the Romanovs; the political regimes have changed from a grand ducal state to a stardom to an empire and then to a republic of workers and peasants. But policy did not!"
This book is only one in a series of popular histories Taras has overseen the publication of over the last decade. Some of their titles underscore their purpose: "The Western Front of the RSFSR in 1918-1920: The Struggle between Russia and Poland for Belarus," "The Forbidden History of Belarus," and "All Against All" which is about the republic during World War II.
Such discussions of the distant past and even more of ethnogenesis are often ignored by political analysts who see them as irrelevant to their own concerns. As in the case of Belarus, that is a mistake because the treatment of these subjects often defines the shape of the mental maps of national elites.
An example of that is a new study by Yuri Shevtsov, the director of the Minsk Center for Problems of European Integration. Unlike many Russians and Belarusians influenced by Russians, he argues that Belarus is located between Russia and Europe with roots in both (www.perspektivy.info/oykumena/krug/belorussiya_na_styke_geopoliticheskih_prostranstv_2009-0-22-7-32.htm).
While he does not directly address ethnogenetic questions, his commentary about the way in which his republic is situated economically, politically, and culturally suggests that to paraphrase and slightly modify Kipling, he views it as being equally the easternmost of Western peoples as the westernmost of an Eastern one.