Building tight relations with EU, Being tight with Russia, UAE cooperation, China, Single currency, Little guys, black guys, Sport and Polish scandal
Belarus intent on building tight relations with EU
|Meeting with Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain|
“Located in the centre of Europe, we would like to have the best relations with our neighbours — the European Union. You should agree that living in the XXI century and looking at each other over the fence is not a very adequate prospect,” remarked the head of state.
The President underscored that “Motivation is very strong: today the European Union accounts for half of the trade turnover while the East accounts for the other half”.
At the same time Alexander Lukashenko believes that the level of the mutual trade between Belarus and Spain is insufficiently high. Last year the trade between the two countries amounted to $219 million. “The trade turnover cannot satisfy either you or us because the potential of our countries is much larger,” he remarked.
The Belarusian leader thanked the government of Spain and the country as a whole for providing colossal aid in overcoming consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, for annual recreation of Belarusian children in Spain. Spanish charity organisations and families welcome around 3,000 children for recreation every year. Those are mainly children from low-income families as well as children, who live in Chernobyl-affected areas (the third position after Italy and Germany). “It means a lot,” believes the President.
The Belarusian head of state remarked that during his meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain he intends to discuss the bilateral relations between Belarus and Spain as well as prospects of relations with the European Union taking into account Spain’s forthcoming presidency in the European Union. In his opinion, Miguel Moratinos’ visit to Belarus “will allow him to see with his own eyes in what direction this ‘mysterious’ country located in the centre of Europe goes to”.
In turn, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain remarked it was a historical visit for him and delivered warm greetings from King of Spain Juan Carlos I and the Prime Minister of the country. He underscored that it is extremely important to establish contacts with Belarus for Spain, the existing president of the Council of Europe and the future president of the European Union.
Miguel Moratinos was confident the visit would give a boost to the development of bilateral relations in all areas. He said that an agreement had been reached to arrange a visit of Belarusian businessmen to Spain in the near future and later on a visit of Spanish businessmen to Belarus. “Your geographical position, the proximity to the European Union and the East, makes Belarus important. It is remarkable that you have such good relations with the Russian Federation. Undoubtedly, the chances of having the same good relations with the European Union are very big,” stressed the Minister.
Belarus, Russia urged to establish mutual market access fast
“Supporting the competitive ability of the economies of Belarus and Russia is the key task in the crisis conditions. Existing problems should be addressed as fast as possible,” emphasised the President. “If our economy steps away from manufacturing cooperation with Russia, it would be difficult to restore it later”.
The head of state underscored that it is necessary to create nationwide access to markets of the Union State, especially during the crisis. In his opinion, it is necessary to work out common terms for participation in government purchases and unified access to bank loans.
Alexander Lukashenko believes that cooperation between Belarus and the Nizhny Novgorod oblast can become an example of well-established interregional contacts. “We should focus attention on stepping up our cooperation and coming out of the hard situation stronger than before,” remarked the President. He added that business of many companies both in Belarus and the Nizhny Novgorod oblast is reliant on manufacturing cooperation.
Participation in Eastern Partnership will not drive Belarus away from Russia, Vasily Khrol says
Vasily Khrol is confident that before the Eastern Partnership programme is launched, the heads of state of the two countries will hold consultations and “in no way they will allow the Belarusian-Russian relations to deteriorate. There is no closer friend for Belarus than Russia. Belarus will take no actions harming the interests of the Union State,” he said.
The Eastern Partnership programme includes six post-Soviet Union countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Eastern Partnership envisages economic integration and political rapprochement of the European Union with these countries. The initiative is supposed to facilitate negotiations aimed at setting up free trade zones for services and agricultural products, creating partnering relations and simplifying visa regulations.
Belarus and Hungary parliaments urged to contribute to improvement of Belarus-EU relations
Belarusian and Hungarian parliaments need to make a contribution to the improvement of the Belarus-EU relations within the framework of the eastern Partnership programme, Vice-Speaker of the Hungarian parliament Laszlo Mandur said as he met with members of the Belarusian parliamentary delegation. The delegation was led by Anatoly Rubinov, deputy chairman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus, deputy chairman of the working group for cooperation with the parliament of Hungary. The Belarusian delegation was in Budapest on a visit on March 30-31. The visit was carried out on the invitation of the Hungarian side, BelTA learnt from the Embassy of Belarus in Hungary.
The Belarusian parliamentarians also met with the chairman of the Hungarian delegation to the IPU and OSCE PA Gabor Hars and the chief of the parliamentary group of the Hungarian –Belarusian friendship Gyula Szabo. The group was set up in the Hungarian parliament in June last year.
The Hungarian side expressed the interest in establishing close inter-parliamentary contracts for the benefit of the two countries and peoples, the embassy said. The two sides advocate taking joint efforts to facilitate trips of citizens. An agreement was reached to improve parliamentary contracts, exchange the experience in law-making, and promote contacts in science, education and culture. The Belarusian side thanked Hungary for the respectful and friendly position which Hungary takes in parliamentary organisations towards Belarus.
The Belarusian MPs got familiar with the work of the Belarus Tractor Company in Hungary, visited a sales-service center of Belarusian tractors which opened in Hungary in October 2007. The Belarusian delegation also had meetings in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Institute of Solid-State Physics and Optics in particular.
Belarusian-Slovenian ministerial talks to focus on cooperation between Belarus, Council of Europe
Revitalization of the dialogue between Belarus and the Council of Europe will be discussed during Belarusian-Slovenian ministerial talks in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana on April 1-2, BelTA learnt from representatives of the Embassy of Belarus in Hungary.
The Belarusian delegation will be led by Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Voronetsky, the Slovenian one — Director General of the Directorate for European Affairs and Bilateral Political Relations Iztok Mirosic.
The agenda includes Belarus’ cooperation with the Council of Europe (Slovenia will preside over the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in May-November 2009), enhancement of Belarusian-Slovenian political, trade, economic, and humanitarian cooperation, development of the legal base of the bilateral relations, cooperation in international organisations.
The Belarusian delegation is also expected to hold negotiations in the Slovenian parliament, talks with top executives of the Economy Ministry, the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the International Forum of Slavic Cultures.
UAE to step up cooperation with Belarus
|Meeting with Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, Head of the S.B.K. Holding (UAE)|
“My visit to Belarus is a signal to step up the bilateral relations,” the UAE guest underlined. “I hope that this meeting will give me an opportunity to get familiar with the projects to develop links with Belarus.”
Sheikh Sultan is the eldest son of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, President of the United Arab Emirates. S.B.K. Holding is a privately held global company based in Dubai, UAE. Some of the company’s current business activities include: oil and gas exploration, refining, and distribution; petrochemicals manufacturing, blending and distribution; power generation; steel manufacturing; hotels and resorts; private equity; banking, insurance and financial services; real-estate, master planning, and infrastructure development; commercial and residential real estate investment; agriculture and livestock. S.B.K. Holding took part in the implementation of some major projects in real-estate and hotel construction in the UAE, Azerbaijan, Algeria and Morocco.
Alexander Lukashenko: Belarus-UAE relations develop rapidly
The relations between Belarus and the UAE are developing rapidly and are mutually beneficial, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said as he met with head of S.B.K. Holding (UAE) Sheikh Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, BelTA has learnt.
The head of state underlined that Belarus sees the great interest of the UAE in developing cooperation with our country. The UAE representatives honour the agreements; in particular a direct flight between Belarus and the United Arab Emirates was launched and is operated steadily.
“We will spare no effort to create good conditions for the development of your business in Belarus. The visit of such a highest level is extremely important for us and we realize that it is a signal for UAE businessmen to invest in Belarus,” the President said.
He pointed out that the meeting on March 30 will focus on specific projects the UAE businessmen are interested in, and the investment in new production.
The Belarusian head of state gave his best regards to the UAE President, the father of Sultan Bin Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahayan, and confirmed his invitation for the UAE President to visit Belarus.
China policemen studying Belarus' expertise in public order maintenance
The foreign guests visited troop unit 5448 where they got familiar with the work of K9 and pyrotechnic services. They also met with Deputy Interior Minister of Belarus, Internal Troops Commander Valery Gaidukevich. The participants shared their experience of maintaining public order during various events and guarding state organizations. Chinese policemen told their Belarusian counterparts about their work to maintain law and order during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The Chinese guests are also to visit troop units 5526 and 3214, Interior Ministry troops department and to meet with top officials of the Department of Internal Affairs of the Brest Oblast Executive Committee.
The visit of the delegation of the People’s Armed Police of China to Belarus runs through April 2.
Robert Chasnoit to partake in meeting on TB problems in China
A representative of Belarus will take part in the international meeting on the problems of tuberculosis that starts in China on April 1, BelTA learnt from the press service of the Belarusian Health Ministry.
The ministerial meeting of the countries with high burden of M/XDR-TB (extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis) and MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant tuberculosis) will be held in Beijing to urgently address the alarming threat of tuberculosis.
The Belarusian side will be represented by First Deputy Health Minister Robert Chasnoit. The Belarusian delegate will tell the participants of the conference about the TB situation in Belarus, the efforts of the country to fight tuberculosis and the progress achieved. Robert Chasnoit will also take part in the negotiations with international and donor organizations interested in the cooperation with Belarus to fight this disease.
The meeting is aimed to build consensus and political commitment globally and in high M/XDR-TB burden countries, and to act immediately to scale up the prevention and management of MDR-TB and start developing 5-year national strategic plans for MDR-TB, embedded within national TB and health sector plans.
High M/XDR-TB Burden Countries include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, Russian Federation, Pakistan, South Africa, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam.
Swap agreement between Belarus and Russia will be first step towards single currency, Vasily Khrol says
“It is very advantageous for Belarus and Russia to have a ruble swap in mutual payments today when US dollar, euro and other currencies fluctuate. Why do Belarus and Russia have to help foreign economies? I am sure we will sign a swap agreement and this will be the first step towards the single currency of the Union State,” Vasily Khrol said.
“When we create real single economic space, when we redeploy all kinds of control on the exterior border and unify tax, currency and other legislations, the introduction of the single currency will be the pinnacle of integration. This is sure to happen as it is advantageous both politically and economically,” Vasily Khrol said.
The single currency plan has not been implemented so far due to “the disagreements as to the size of compensations for Belarus to cover monetary gaps and due to the lack of a single position on the single centre of issue,” Vasily Khrol said.
High-tech products prevail in Belarusian exports to Russia
Belarus mainly exports high-tech products to Russia and imports high-technology products from the neighbouring country, Vasily Khrol, Deputy State Secretary of the Union State, told a press conference in Minsk.
According to Vasily Khrol, these are various types of equipment such as mechanisms and machines. He also noted that high-tech products prevail in the Belarusian import from Russia despite the fact that the Tiumen oblast, the main oil supplier to Belarus, ranks first among Russian regions Belarus trades with. Moscow ranks second.
In 2008, the Belarusian-Russian trade hit $34 billion, up 30% as against 2007. Vasily Khrol also noted that Belarus ranks sixth among Russia’s trading partners.
Union programme to set up production of agricultural machinery aggregates prolonged'
The implementation of the Union State programme aimed at design and batch production of aggregates of heavy-duty agricultural machines based on the 200-450 hp universal mobile power unit was prolonged for one year, Vasily Khrol, Deputy State Secretary of the Union State, told a press conference in Minsk on April 1, BelTA has learnt.
He explained that under this programme a universal mobile power unit is being designed. Due to interchangeable aggregates it can perform multiple functions substituting several expensive farm machines. This development of the Belarusian and Russian scientists will help replace grain and fodder harvesters and a number of other agricultural machines.
“Scientists believe that it will be a breakthrough in agricultural machine building,” Vasily Khrol said.
In Belarus the Industry Ministry is the customer of the programme, in Russia the Ministry of Industry and Energy The main developers and executors of the programme are Gomel-based state special design bureau for grain-harvesting and fodder harvesting machines, the All-Russian Agriculture Mechanization Research Institute, Gomselmash and a number of Russian research institutes and machine building enterprises.
Lukashenko Loosens Reins as Russia Vies With West for Belarus
Lukashenko who has run what the U.S. in 2005 called “Europe’s last dictatorship” for 15 years, agreed in January to accelerate state asset sales and reduce government-ordered bank lending in exchange for a $2.5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.
He then went to Russia, Belarus’s biggest trading partner and energy supplier, and asked for an additional $3 billion in credit. When that was rejected, he sought $2 billion. The Russians, reluctant to expand existing subsidies before the IMF aid, may now relent to keep Belarus in their orbit.
A Belarusian move toward Europe would likely heighten Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s anxiety over western encroachment in territory once ruled from Moscow. The three Baltic former Soviet republics joined the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2004, and Ukraine and Georgia are seeking NATO membership.
“Belarus is trying to reposition itself closer to Europe and further from Russia,” said Charles Grant, director of the Centre for European Reform, a London-based research group. “Russia may not like it. It may stop it.”
Lukashenko, 54, is keen to exploit Russian fears of instability in a country of 10 million Russian speakers that Moscow-based OAO Gazprom uses to ship a fifth of its gas exports to Europe.
Alongside the IMF cash, Belarus obtained an EU offer of membership in its so-called Eastern Partnership, which would break down trade barriers. Lukashenko will attend an EU meeting on the initiative in May.
Every Belarus election since 1996 has been criticized as unfair by international observers such as the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. In November 2007 and again in March 2008, the U.S. Treasury Department froze the overseas accounts of state-run oil company Belneftekhim, citing human rights violations by Lukashenko.
Since then, Belarus has released the last of its political prisoners, prompting the EU to ease travel restrictions on Lukashenko and his top officials and the U.S. to lighten penalties on Belneftekhim.
Price of Aid
Access to western aid comes at a price for Lukashenko. While most governments are taking a greater role in their economies, he is being forced to unwind state controls.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, formed by the U.S. and other western governments to help Soviet-bloc states embrace capitalism after communism’s collapse, says it won’t increase its investments in the country until Lukashenko shows more commitment to privatization and the free market.
Lukashenko visited Moscow last month for talks with President Dmitry Medvedev. The $3 billion in new Russian aid would have come in the form of a currency swap and added to the $3.5 billion Moscow has doled out to its neighbor since 2007.
After Russia rejected the first request, Belarus yesterday asked Russia to provide a $2 billion bank loan guaranteed by the Russian government, Interfax reported, citing the Russian Finance Ministry’s press service.
If Russia offers the cash, it will be on condition that Belarus adopts the Russian ruble, initially as a reserve currency, and increases its military cooperation. That might include the deployment of Russian missiles on Belarusian territory should the U.S. go ahead with a planned missile-defense system in neighboring Poland.
“Russia gives us loans so easily and so cheaply, knowing full well that they go on things we consume and hence can’t be repaid,” said Stanislav Bogdankevich, head of the Belarus National Bank between 1991 and 1995, in an interview in the capital Minsk. “Russian politicians aren’t stupid. In the future, they will take Belarusian assets to cover debts. There is an element of future subjugation.”
Unlike Russia and its $385 billion cash reserve, Belarus is racing to avoid bankruptcy after its economy grew at an average of about 8 percent since 2000.
The country has about four months to raise more cash from the West or win funding from Moscow and face an “encroaching takeover by the Kremlin,” said Yaroslav Romanchuk, an adviser to the government who runs the Mizes research center in Minsk.
Belarus’s importance to Russia as a “geopolitically crucial location” will make it hard to rebuff Russian pressure, the U.S.-based risk-advisory group Stratfor said. “Russia’s financial assistance is simply too valuable for the economically isolated Belarus to pass up” amid the economic crisis, Stratfor, which is based in Austin, Texas, told clients last month.
Belarus’s exports plunged 45 percent in January, leaving the central bank with less than $3 billion in foreign currency reserves, equal to less than a month of imports. Gross domestic debt stood at $14.6 billion on Feb. 1, triple the amount held by the population in 28 banks.
On the list for privatization this year is the Belarusian Automobile Plant, maker of BelAZ trucks, and pipeline operator Gomeltransneft Druzhba, which services part of the Druzhba route that Russia uses to supply 20 percent of Germany’s crude oil.
Russia is the biggest export market for Belarusian products and the two countries formed a loose political union a decade ago that helps Belarus save $4 billion a year in discounted natural- gas and oil prices.
That relationship may change if Belarus finds other donors and diversifies its sources of energy. The nation is seeking to build its first hydropower and coal-fired plants and burn peat, a decayed vegetation matter found in bogs, to cut reliance on gas to 58 percent of total electricity output from 97 percent within a decade, Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets said in an interview.
At their meeting in Moscow, Medvedev sought to lock up Lukashenko’s allegiance.
“We have reached some serious agreements which have economic, humanitarian and regional dimension,” Medvedev told reporters. “They now need to be implemented. They must be turned into contracts, deliveries, settlement of issues.”
Conditions for more Russian loans may include recognition of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, over which Russia waged a five-day war last August. The EU has said it will make no deals if Belarus officially recognizes the states, as Russia has. Lukashenko has passed on the decision to the country’s parliament, which has delayed voting on it.
“Lukashenko’s game continues in both directions,” said Arkady Moshes, program director for Russia at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki.
Lukashenko seeks closer ties between Belarus and EU
From: Ria Novosti
The EU has been seeking to mend relations with Belarus, and earlier this month prolonged the suspension of a travel ban that had been imposed on Lukashenko.
"As we are located in the center of Europe, we [Belarus] would like to have the friendliest relations with our neighbors - the European Union. Obviously living in the 21st century and looking at each other through a fence is not a suitable perspective," Lukashenko told Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos at a meeting in the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
Lukashenko also commented that half of Belarus' trade turnover was with the EC.
The Spanish foreign minister said that Spain, which currently holds the rotating chair in the Council of Europe and will take over the EU presidency in 2010, believes it is important to establish contacts with Belarus.
"Your geographical location... gives Belarus an important meaning. It is wonderful that you enjoy such good relations with Russia. There is definitely a good chance of Belarus enjoying the same good relations with the European Union," Moratinos said.
At the last EU summit, on March 19-20 in Brussels, Belarus was included in the EU's Eastern Partnership project along with a number of other ex-Soviet republics.
The Eastern Partnership project, which aims to improve human rights and the rule of law in former Soviet states, as well as strengthen their ties with the EU, also includes Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
The ban on Alexander Lukashenko entering EU countries was imposed in 2006 in connection with election fraud and human rights violations. However, the 27-nation bloc suspended the ban last October, after several political prisoners were freed in Belarus.
National educational project SPARE in Belarus launched
From: Norges Naturvernforbund
26th of March SPARE was launched as a national project on energy and climate education in Belarus. Joint efforts from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Environment, educational and environmental organisations will give education on environment, energy and climate a real boost, and ensure dissemination on national level in the project period 2008-2011.
The project launch was arranged by Republican environmental center for kids and youth, and was attended by 80 participants. The launch was attended by representatives from the national ministries on Education and Environment, project partner organisations, and representatives from the educational sector throughout Belarus. From Norwegian side Isabel Kemp from the Norwegian embassy in Kiev was present, as well as Yngvild Lorentzen from Norges Naturvernforbund.
SPARE – www.spareworld.org
Norges Naturvernforbund has developed the educational project SPARE, which is the biggest educational project on environment, energy and climate in the world. It is at present implemented in 16 countries, most of which in former Soviet Union. 300 000 pupils and 5000 teachers participate in the project during the educational year 2008/2009.
The project has three main components: theoretical education, practical actions for energy saving at schools and at home, and information local society about the achievements. All pupils are invited to participate in an international competition every year. Training of teachers is also an important part of SPARE, as teachers in all countries lack sufficient knowledge on issues related to energy, climate and environment in order to conduct up do date education on these issues.
SPARE in Belarus
A main part of the SPARE project in Belarus will be to adapt the project materials to Belarus conditions, together with producing a work book for pupils and a teachers’ programme. Trainings for teachers will be developed, and trainings for schools on practical energy saving measures will also be among the projects’ activities. A demonstration site established in Volma by International Sakharov Environmental University will be further developed for demonstration of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Dissemination of information to society through the pupils and libraries is also a key element of the project, along with development of a web site with electronic information resources.
Beside Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment, the implementing partners in the project are: Republican environmental center for kids and youth, International Sakharov Environmental University, Radiotechnical college, NGO Birdlife Belarus and NGO Ecoproect.
Belarus looks for energy saving solutions
The current energy situation in Belarus has the potential of developing into a crisis for the country. Belarus has few national energy sources and depends on import, mainly from Russia. Belarus has inherited the Soviet style of energy management, with focus on large-scale heat and electricity production and central distribution of energy. Old and inefficient systems for production and distribution of energy are combined with very poor building condition. The energy consumption per GDP is 1.5-2 times higher than in developed countries with similar climatic conditions and economical structure.
After the increasing gas prices in 2007, because of the end of subsidized gas from Russia, the Belarusian authorities have reached out to other countries and initiatives. A presidential decree (decree number 3) was issued in 2007, and urges all sectors to save energy.
Belarus educational sector as lighthouse on energy saving
The SPARE project is one of the first national projects implemented in cooperation with both government and civil society as mutual partners. This is a major development for the green movement in Belarus, and a giant leap from the Belarusian authorities. A main aim for the project is to contribute to a more sustainable energy development in Belarus, and make the educational sector a lighthouse for this development.
Belarus delivers 554 tractors to Venezuela
From: Xinhua Net
The tractors will facilitate production on 300,000 hectares of farm land and will create 1,100 jobs, said Belarussian Ambassador to Venezuela Valentin Gurinovich.
Another batch of 490 Belarussian tractors will arrive in 15 days, said Venezuelan Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua.
According to Gurinovich, Belarus will also help Venezuela build a tractor factory by the end of this year.
Venezuela and Belarus saw their ties strengthened after President Hugo Chavez visited Minsk last year.
The two countries share an investment fund of 500 million U.S. dollars for joint projects such as house construction and seismic vibrator and truck factories.
Russian embassy demands Belarusian authorities to explain TV stations switching off
From: Charter '97
“We haven’t received any official statements from the Belarusian side so far. We were trying to get to the Ministry of Foreign Affaires of Belarus, but didn’t get an answer,” a representative of the Russian embassy told Interfax.
Since April 1, broadcasting of Russian Channel One (World Network), NTV Mir, RenTV, and RTR-Planeta have been stopped in Belarus.
The agency has learnt that the union of the cable operators will have a session on Wednesday that will adopt an official position on the decision to stop broadcasting of certain Russian TV stations in Belarus.
As Alena Klyuikova, head of the department of programs of Cosmos-TV, the biggest cable operator in Belarus, told the agency that “the decision had been taken inside the company Cosmos-TV”. She refused to say the reasons, induced the company to stop broadcasting of a number of Russian TV channels, which will be replaced by TV stations Russia. Vesti 24 Hours, Mir. CIS, and TNT.
“We haven’t received any oral or written orders from above demanding us to stop broadcasting of RenTV channel,” Ihar Tsyrkun, deputy director of the company “Minsk TV Information Networks”, said to the agency.
According to him, “the decision was taken by our company on economic grounds”. I. Tsyrkun explained that the Belarusian channel “Stolichnoe Televidenie” re-transmit some programs of Ren-TV. “So, we pay to the rights holder two times, and repeatedly received complaints from unsatisfied subscribers, who had to pay twice for watching the same programs,” the representative of the company said.
Ales Bialiatski: ‘Currently, the Belarusian society is constrained by repressive legislation’
‘In fact, there has been a continuous process: on the one hand, we have not appealed the refusal by the Ministry of Justice yet. On the other hand, we have held another constituent congress on 29 March to draw up one more application to the Ministry of Justice. The decision is closely connected to the extremely low amount of impartial considerations of similar refusals by the Supreme Court. One can count them on the fingers of one hand – the organizations that managed to protect their rights at the Supreme Court. Needless to say of the political loyalty of the Supreme Court – the statistics are expressive: the cases are often considered in a very harsh manner and a dot or a comma can sometimes result in a refusal. This is what we had to face back in 2007, when the human rights organization was deprived of its official status due to trivial reasons.
This is going to be our third and final attempt.
This is what we have agreed upon. We will try to draw up a bureaucratically perfect application, so that not a single comma could be criticized. However, we will do our best to attract the international human rights community, so that they could influence the situation, taking into account Belarus’ attempts to improve its international reputation. I think that the issue of Nasha Viasna’s registration will be a serious test for the Belarusian authorities, concerning the obligations to be undertaken when joining the Eastern Partnership. Having met with various EU officials, I can state that they have repeatedly stressed that Belarus’ membership in the Eastern Partnership could not be unconditional without certain obligations.
Belarus’ activities in the Eastern Partnership will be to a great extend connected to the country’s willingness to implement the international human rights standards.
We are offering our hand to the Belarusian authorities; the registration is necessary to the authorities as well.
We are going to act openly, legally and transparently. We are not going to hide our objectives. They are obvious and we want the state to implement its human rights obligations and the provisions of the Belarusian Constitution.
In my opinion, today, when modern technologies make it possible to immediately distribute data, it is not a big problem for human rights NGOs to keep in touch with their colleagues, target groups or society in general.
Every human rights activist can work independently, which is what we have been doing lately. At the same time we can pursue collective aims. In any case, we will continue our regular human rights activities, first of all, rendering assistance to the victims of human rights violations, collecting and distributing human rights information, preparing themed reports for international conferences and organizations, communicating with mass media, human rights education programs and monitoring elections, which we have been doing over the past 10 years.
There is a series of repressive laws, which concern the political and social life of Belarus, including the rights and duties of its citizens.
Suffice it to mention the bills passed over the years: the Law on Mass Media, the Law on Counteracting Extremism, the Law on Mass Actions, the Law on NGOs and the amendments providing for criminal prosecution for membership in an unregistered organization.
All of them require a serious and through reform. Currently, the Belarusian society is constrained by the repressive legislation. We must strife for the review of these laws, alongside with the democratization of the society in general, which will enable Belarusian citizens, NGOs, trade unions and political parties to feel free.’
Size matters & color codes
From: Moscow News
Let's take the easy one first: height. Medvedev stands 5 feet, 4 inches (162 cm), while Obama is 6'1" (186). How should we express this (or any) difference in height in acceptably neutral terms? "X is taller than Y" is fine, and "Y is shorter than X" is OK, too. But it's best to avoid variants such as "X has more stature than Y," "X is the greater of the two," and even "X is bigger than Y" - all true in the physical sense, but all potentially shaded with other meanings.
You might say that one president stands "head and shoulders above" the other, and the idiom would almost literally be true in this case. But remember that this phrase is also used figuratively, distinguishing the superior quality of a book, movie, pizza or almost anything from inferiors. So be careful with it, and note that even a seemingly innocuous formulation - say, "Obama's grasp of arms control issues is head and shoulders above Medvedev's" - could sound like a cheap joke.
A word on pejoratives: Among the epithets best avoided when describing people of modest height are "squirt," "pint-sized," "stumpy," "short-stuff," and "pee-wee." Also stay well away from Randy Newman's popular satirical song "Short People," often taken rather badly by short people not long on satire.
What works? The phrase "vertically challenged" is amusing, but only for its mockery of political correctness. For more-or-less formal speech and writing, go with "diminutive" rather than the elsewhere-acceptable "small" or "little."
One colorful phrase almost certain to arise as Americans watch the first Medvedev-Obama meetings on TV is "Mutt and Jeff." This harks back to a classic U.S. comic strip dating from 1907, in which the taller Mutt stands head and shoulders (literally) above his pal Jeff.
"Mutt and Jeff" is a neutral reference, but should probably be avoided here - unless people from Medvedev's camp have the wit and foresight to launch a "first strike": If the Russian president begins the summit's initial photo-op with "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Speaking as Jeff to President Obama's Mutt...", it will draw a good laugh from all the Americans present while immediately disarming the height disparity "issue."
Indeed, the lanky Barack has already set up this self-effacing one-liner for the diminutive Dmitry: at his first post-election press conference, Obama referred to himself with a mildly disparaging term for an animal of mixed origins - a "mutt." This kind of coincidence is a terrible thing to waste!
In general, Russians learning English should shy away such words, even when they hear them from the mouths of the "mutts" themselves. The area of race and ethnicity should always be approached with extreme caution, since English speakers have effectively laid a minefield in it for unwary outsiders.
Obama is an African-American and should be described as such, since that is the standard neutral term now. But there is history to contend with here. In my lifetime, the words "colored," "Negro," "black" (or "Black") and "Afro-American" have also been acceptable - but each of these now bears a certain nuance. It is not acceptable, for example, to term Mr. Obama and his family "colored people"; they may, however, be called "people of color." See what I mean?
The most dangerous landmine, however, is "the n-word" - nigger - a pejorative term which is especially problematic in Moscow, since the nominally neutral Russian word негр sounds quite like it to many ears.
The n-word has a complex history. It occurs in real literature, including Joseph Conrad and Agatha Christie titles and throughout Mark Twain's classic "Huckleberry Finn." Even more confoundingly, it is used often enough in public by African-Americans themselves, particularly in popular music and comedy venues. Why should it be a problem for others then, such as Russians learning English?
Some things just are. This is one of them. Never use it. End of story.
Or put it this way: If some American referred to you, a Russian, as a лицо кавказской национальности - a perfectly natural mistake for white English speakers, who classify their own ethnicity as "Caucasian" - would you be likely to take it neutrally?
So, that's the long and the short of it, in black and white. Let the summit begin!
Text of US-Russia statement on nuclear arms
Reaffirming that the era when our countries viewed each other as enemies is long over, and recognizing our many common interests, we today established a substantive agenda for Russia and the United States to be developed over the coming months and years. We are resolved to work together to strengthen strategic stability, international security, and jointly meet contemporary global challenges, while also addressing disagreements openly and honestly in a spirit of mutual respect and acknowledgment of each others perspective.
We discussed measures to overcome the effects of the global economic crisis, strengthen the international monetary and financial system, restore economic growth, and advance regulatory efforts to ensure that such a crisis does not happen again.
We also discussed nuclear arms control and reduction. As leaders of the two largest nuclear weapons states, we agreed to work together to fulfill our obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and demonstrate leadership in reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. We committed our two countries to achieving a nuclear free world, while recognizing that this long-term goal will require a new emphasis on arms control and conflict resolution measures, and their full implementation by all concerned nations. We agreed to pursue new and verifiable reductions in our strategic offensive arsenals in a step-by-step process, beginning by replacing the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with a new, legally binding treaty. We are instructing our negotiators to start talks immediately on this new treaty and to report on results achieved in working out the new agreement by July.
While acknowledging that differences remain over the purposes of deployment of missile defense assets in Europe, we discussed new possibilities for mutual international cooperation in the field of missile defense, taking into account joint assessments of missile challenges and threats, aimed at enhancing the security of our countries, and that of our allies and partners.
The relationship between offensive and defensive arms will be discussed by the two governments.
We intend to carry out joint efforts to strengthen the international regime for nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. In this regard we strongly support the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and are committed to its further strengthening.
Together, we seek to secure nuclear weapons and materials, while promoting the safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. We support the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and stress the importance of the IAEA Safeguards system. We seek universal adherence to IAEA comprehensive safeguards, as provided for in Article III of the NPT, and to the Additional Protocol and urge the ratification and implementation of these agreements.
We will deepen cooperation to combat nuclear terrorism. We will seek to further promote the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, which now unites 75 countries. We also support international negotiations for a verifiable treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons.
As a key measure of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament, we underscored the importance of the entering into force the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. In this respect, President Obama confirmed his commitment to work for American ratification of this Treaty.
We applaud the achievements made through the Nuclear Security Initiative launched in Bratislava in 2005, including to minimize the civilian use of Highly Enriched Uranium, and we seek to continue bilateral collaboration to improve and sustain nuclear security. We agreed to examine possible new initiatives to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy while strengthening the nuclear nonproliferation regime.
We welcome the work of the IAEA on multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle and encourage efforts to develop mutually beneficial approaches with states considering nuclear energy or considering expansion of existing nuclear energy programs in conformity with their rights and obligations under the NPT. To facilitate cooperation in the safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, both sides will work to bring into force the bilateral Agreement for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.
To strengthen nonproliferation efforts, we also declare our intent to give new impetus to implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 on preventing non-state actors from obtaining WMD-related materials and technologies.
We agreed to work on a bilateral basis and at international forums to resolve regional conflicts.
We agreed that al-Qaida and other terrorist and insurgent groups operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan pose a common threat to many nations, including the United States and Russia. We agreed to work toward and support a coordinated international response with the U.N. playing a key role. We also agreed that a similar coordinated and international approach should be applied to counter the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan, as well as illegal supplies of precursors to this country. Both sides agreed to work out new ways of cooperation to facilitate international efforts of stabilization, reconstruction and development in Afghanistan, including in the regional context.
We support the continuation of the Six-Party Talks at an early date and agreed to continue to pursue the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in accordance with purposes and principles of the September 19, 2005, Joint Statement and subsequent consensus documents. We also expressed concern that a North Korean ballistic missile launch would be damaging to peace and stability in the region and agreed to urge the DPRK to exercise restraint and observe relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
While we recognize that under the NPT Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear program, Iran needs to restore confidence in its exclusively peaceful nature. We underline that Iran, as any other Non-Nuclear Weapons State-Party to the NPT, has assumed the obligation under Article II of that Treaty in relation to its non-nuclear weapon status. We call on Iran to fully implement the relevant U.N. Security Council and the IAEA Board of Governors resolutions, including provision of required cooperation with the IAEA. We reiterated their commitment to pursue a comprehensive diplomatic solution, including direct diplomacy and through P5+1 negotiations, and urged Iran to seize this opportunity to address the international communitys concerns.
We also started a dialogue on security and stability in Europe. Although we disagree about the causes and sequence of the military actions of last August, we agreed that we must continue efforts toward a peaceful and lasting solution to the unstable situation today. Bearing in mind that significant differences remain between us, we nonetheless stress the importance of last years six-point accord of August 12, the September 8 agreement, and other relevant agreements, and pursuing effective cooperation in the Geneva discussions to bring stability to the region.
We agreed that the resumption of activities of the NATO-Russia Council is a positive step. We welcomed the participation of an American delegation at the special Conference on Afghanistan convened under the auspices of Shanghai Cooperation Organization last month.
We discussed our interest in exploring a comprehensive dialogue on strengthening Euro-Atlantic and European security, including existing commitments and President Medvedevs June 2008 proposals on these issues. The OSCE is one of the key multilateral venues for this dialogue, as is the NATO-Russia Council.
We also agreed that our future meetings must include discussions of transnational threats such as terrorism, organized crime, corruption and narcotics, with the aim of enhancing our cooperation in countering these threats and strengthening international efforts in these fields, including through joint actions and initiatives.
We will strive to give rise to a new dynamic in our economic links, including the launch of an intergovernmental commission on trade and economic cooperation and the intensification of our business dialogue. Especially during these difficult economic times, our business leaders must pursue all opportunities for generating economic activity. We both pledged to instruct our governments to make efforts to finalize as soon as possible Russias accession into the World Trade Organization and continue working towards the creation of favorable conditions for the development of Russia-U.S. economic ties.
We also pledge to promote cooperation in implementing Global Energy Security Principles, adopted at the G-8 summit in St. Petersburg in 2006, including improving energy efficiency and the development of clean energy technologies.
Today we have outlined a comprehensive and ambitious work plan for our two governments. We both affirmed a mutual desire to organize contacts between our two governments in a more structured and regular way. Greater institutionalized interactions between our ministries and departments make success more likely in meeting the ambitious goals that we have established today.
At the same time, we also discussed the desire for greater cooperation not only between our governments, but also between our societies — more scientific cooperation, more students studying in each others country, more cultural exchanges and more cooperation between our nongovernmental organizations. In our relations with each other, we also seek to be guided by the rule of law, respect for fundamental freedoms and human rights, and tolerance for different views.
We, the leaders of Russia and the United States, are ready to move beyond Cold War mentalities and chart a fresh start in relations between our two countries. In just a few months we have worked hard to establish a new tone in our relations. Now it is time to get down to business and translate our warm words into actual achievements of benefit to Russia, the United States, and all those around the world interested in peace and prosperity.
AIB suffers losses through Polish bank
From: Shares IE
The group moved Bank Zachodni BWK - which AIB holds a 70.5 per cent stake in from hold to sell - resulting in share prices tumbling, the Irish Independent reports.
Warsaw's BRE Bank also saw its stance downgraded by UniCredit, a move one of the company's analysts believes is a sign of the turbulent times ahead for the country's lenders.
"Given the ongoing deterioration in the economic and banking environment, we believe that 2009 will be a very challenging year for Polish banks," said Iza Rokicka, a spokesperson for the brokerage.
The news follows a recent scandal which saw AIB fall victim to an alleged loans scam thought to have been worth somewhere in the region of 56 million Euro involving a number of its London offices.
Walesa threatens to leave Poland
The former president and Solidarity leader said he was tired of defending himself against claims he collaborated with the secret police in the 1970s.
He also demanded greater support from the democratic institutions of the state he fought for in the 1980s.
Mr Walesa was cleared of earlier spying allegations by a special court in 2000.
Judges concluded that former SB security service agents had forged documents in his file in a bid to prevent him receiving the Nobel Peace prize in 1983.
Mr Walesa led the Soviet bloc's first independent trade union, Solidarity, which emerged to challenge Poland's communist government during strikes in the Gdansk shipyards in 1980, and eventually helped overthrow it nine years later.
In 1990, he was swept to power as the country's first post-communist president.
The latest book on Mr Walesa's life, which was published earlier this month, repeated a claim that he spied on his colleagues in the Gdansk shipyards in the 1970s. It also alleges he fathered an illegitimate child.
It was published by a 24-year-old historian at Poland's Institute for National Remembrance (IPN), which investigates communist-era crimes.
On Monday, Mr Walesa threatened to leave Poland and hand back his Nobel Prize if the law and the courts failed to protect him from the "unpunished attacks" on his life story.
"Fascists and communists killed but they murdered their enemies," he said. "Here, friends and patriots are being murdered, and for what price? A historian must decide whether this serves Poland, and not just repeat unlikely nonsense."
Some critics and Prime Minister Donald Tusk have voiced support for Mr Walesa, saying that the books are politically motivated.
"We need Lech Walesa in Poland as an important authority figure," said Mr Tusk, himself a former Solidarity activist.
The BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw says the accusations are unlikely to do too much damage to Mr Walesa's reputation.
According to surveys, many Poles say even if he did err as a young man, he is still a hero for what he achieved in the fight for freedom and democracy in the 1980s, our correspondent says.
Mieszko's shareholders furious after being left in the dark
Afterwards, three independent members of its supervisory board resigned, and then a few days ago Marek Moczulski stepped down as the company's president. Puls Biznesu acquired a memorandum of Unicredit CA IB Poland from November 2008, which reads that ACP was planning to dispose of its stake in the confectionery producer and the financial institution was playing the role of exclusive agent in preparing this transaction.
The memorandum reached minority shareholders and outraged them presenting financial forecasts for 2008, which were not officially disclosed. "The management board had nothing to do with the memorandum," said the former president Marek Moczulski. Alta also denied being the source of the leak.
According to experts, a potential transaction would be very difficult and would only be successful by acquiring a sector investor. According to the memorandum, Mieszko might also be eyeing mid-size companies from CEE as an alternative solution.
Glen Hanlon is back in Belarus
From: Euro Hockey
In this season Glen Hanlon worked as Jokerit coach, but things didn't go run smoothly and the coach found himself withot a bench. Now Hanlon is committed to the preparation of the Belarusian national team for the 2009 World Championships. His team set as aim to reach a position not lower than the seventh. Belarusian hockey federations' representant Vladimir Naumov stated that he would like Hanlon to work in Belarus until 2014, at least. Let's remember that Belarus proposed themselves as candidate for the organization of the 2014 World Championships. Naumov admitted to count on the fact that with Hanlon, the team could fight for a medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
Regarding Dynamo, club's aim for the 2009-10 season is to get the tenth seed in the regular season and advancing at least to the playoffs' second round.
"I'm very glad to be back again in Belarus, and I'll work not only with the national team, but also with such a good team as Dynamo. I've got many ties with Belarus."
What are Dynamo's aims?
Any team sets as own aim to reach the better they can get, to reach the playoffs, to play and win. It will be impossible to do without foreigner specialists and players, so I'm saying since now that we're going to sign some foreign players. Players that will have to represent worthly the club's and the nation's interests in such a league, like the KHL, indipendently from the fact that they are from Belarus or from another country. Belarusians don't consider themselves as second-rate players because we have a good atmosphere and every player deserves respect.
Haven't you forgot russian language?
I've forgot some words already, but I remember very well one of them: rabota (work). It was pleasant for me today to quickly visit the locker room, meet the players, with whom I worked in the international stage. This team has some veterans who has proved a lot and that has demonstrated that they can worthly do their job. But there are also some youngsters who try hard to prove that they can eventually take the spot of the veterans, but they still have a lot to prove. In the forthcoming training camp they will have a chance to prove that they can get the veterans' roles and to reach serious objectives.
Jokerit hasn't had much luck this season
Yes, and I sadly say that. As any other coach I wanted to win. We played well at the start of the season, but then we gave up, we didn't reach our aims. Unfortunately, it went like that.
Aren't you worried by the goalkeepers' lineup in the Belarusian national team?
No. I do not think that we'll have many problems. Regarding Vitali Koval, he's a young goalie who still has to work a lot. No problem, fatigue shouldn't strike on him at his age.
Regarding Andrei Mezin, we have good ties and I believe that he will be happy to play for the national team. Thus we have at least two excellent goalkeepers - goalkeepers who are now among the best players in the world in their role. Mezin wasn't awarded as best goalkeeper without a reason in two world championships - in Austria and in Latvia. I think that we must be up for him, when he'll be with the national team.
And the defense doesn't concern you?
No. Of course, we're waiting reinforcements from North America: we'll have Sergei Kolosov, Vladimir Denisov, Ruslan Salei. And if someone won't arrive, I hope everything is gonna be ok.
Do you think that Mikhail Stefanovich is ready to play for the national team?
We count on this young player and we wait him in the training camp. He trained hard last year, but he wasn't ready yet. Now Stefanovich plays in a good league, where he scored many goals. Yes, we hope that he can help the national team. If his team won't advance to the playoffs, of course.
Aren't you worried by the daily life in Minsk?
No. Our director for hockey operations Sean Simpson is already set in a flat, and he had good words only, talking about all the aspects of the life in Minsk. It's not a case that many specialists consider Minsk as the best city in the KHL.
No rustiness as Belarus hold Germany
|Belarus's Sergei Kryvets chases Marcel Heller of Germany|
Belarus enjoyed a morale-boosting first outing since qualifying for the UEFA European Under-21 Championship back in October as they held fellow finalists Germany to a friendly draw in Paderborn on Tuesday.
Germany coach Horst Hrubesch made five changes to the team beaten 4-0 by the Netherlands on Friday, and his new-look side took the lead through Sandro Wagner after 38 minutes. The visitors were behind for just six minutes, though, as Sergei Kislyak earned Belarus a deserved share of the spoils when curling a free-kick beyond Florian Fromlowitz.
Belarus may not have played since beating Turkey in both legs of their play-off for this summer's finals in Sweden, but they showed no rustiness as they took the game to their hosts from the off. Their crisp early play would have resulted in an opening goal on 12 minutes had Fromlowitz not produced a sharp save to deny Dmitri Komarovski.
With Germany reduced to efforts from range, Jerome Boateng fizzing one such shot just wide, it came as something of a shock when Anis Ben-Hatira curled a cross from the right flank into the box and Wagner rose above Oleg Veretilo to break the deadlock with a fine header. Belarus drew level soon after, Kislyak curling a set-piece into the right corner of the net from outside the area, and had a great opportunity to win the game through Aleksandr Martynovich (72) in a second half in which Ben-Hatira failed to take advantage of Germany's clearest opening.
The Girls of Belarus
From: yairs blog
Bob (Alun Armstrong - Eragon) and Julie Jenkins (Lindsey Coulson - EastEnders) are struggling to adapt to their empty nest when their daughter leaves home. Despite Bob’s objections, Julie decides that they should offer a temporary home to two troubled children from Belarus, the country worst affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The arrival of Nadia and Nelli transforms their lives as Bob learns to laugh again and Julie delights in their renewed vitality, but neither of them realized how hard it would be to say good-bye…
The Girls of Belarus was sweet! You have to call on this movie! A passing strange performance by Alun Armstrong & Lindsey Coulson make The Girls of Belarus a “need to grasp” movie!
The stupendous cast includes Alun Armstrong, Lindsey Coulson, Samantha Robinson. This cast just make The Girls of Belarus the more extraordinary!
See The Girls of Belarus Online Right Now!
approx. 69 mins.
See The Girls of Belarus Online Right Now!