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Belarus takes enough decisions to reach economic goals
|Premier Sergei Sidorsky Delivers Report to the President|
According to the Premier, over the last few weeks the export issues dominated the government agenda. The government adopted a number of legal acts and key decisions regarding the production sector, macroeconomic situation and foreign economic policy.
The analysis of the economic performance in H1 is needed to ensure efficient work in H2,” Sergei Sidorsky said.
The Prime Minister fiercely criticized the construction industry for slow rates of construction and insignificant export of services. “Where is two-to-three shift work? Do they work triple-shift in Minsk? What is the reason behind this failure?” Sergei Sidorsky asked.
He pointed out the failure to meet construction goals in the capital. “We have provided you with everything you might need: money, construction materials, and personnel. What other measures shall we take to help the construction industry in Minsk?” the Belarusian Prime Minister said.
The Premier drew attention to the unsatisfactory rate of reducing warehouse overstocking at the enterprises subordinate to the Ministry of Architecture and Construction. The stockpiles at warehouses should not exceed 20%. You should seize every opportunity to sell construction materials. It is the only way to unload the stockpiles and bring money to the banks, the Premier is convinced.
President urges Belarus construction industry to switch to European standards by 2010
“It will be a real breakthrough for the country if this target is implemented,” Alexander Lukashenko stressed. “We pin great hopes on our construction industry as it is a locomotive that would pull the economy out of the crisis. The construction, however, should be of good quality and reasonably priced,” the head of state added.
The Belarusian leader asked for the detailed information on the implementation of his instructions regarding the investment projects and, in particular, on the housing development in Makayonka street.
State would like business to help promote Belarusian products abroad
“Let us encourage our businessmen, let us ask for their help in selling out warehouse stocks. Businessmen could help us a lot. But we have not done this yet. The government does not hear what I say,” Alexander Lukashenko said. Vladimir Peftiev, chairman of the general meeting of shareholders of Beltekhexport, wrote a letter suggesting the measures how to promote sales in China, the President said. “The government is doing nothing even about this. I would like to look into what is going on,” the head of state said.
Alexander Lukashenko noted that this is not the last meeting with businessmen. “We need to talk with our businessmen. They can help promote products in traditional and new markets,” the Belarusian leader added.
Sergei Martynov stresses importance of joint efforts in normalizing Belarus-EU dialogue
|European Union (EU) foreign and security policy chief Javier Solana (R) meets with Belarussian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov at the EU headquarters in Brussels, capital of Belgium, on July 28, 2009.|
The Belarusian minister also stressed it is essential to develop the treaty-legal cooperation base and remove barriers in trade, intensify collaboration in the areas of mutual interest, facilitate the visa issuance for the Belarusian people.
“As you would know, two major partners that Belarus has is Russia and the European Union. The Eastern Partnership is so far the major part of our relationship with the European Union,” Sergei Martynov said. He also noted that Belarus participates actively in all the platforms of the Eastern Partnership Initiative. “I believe we have created a structural effort within our Government to follow up all the necessary points. We have offered a number of specific projects to our neighbors and also to the European Commission,” the Minister added.
According to Sergei Martynov, Belarus works to improve the bilateral relations between Belarus and the European Union. The sides have done a lot since October 2008 after the first meeting of the Belarusian Minister with the EU Troika. “We see a lot of practical perspective in this particular arrangement,” the Belarusian Foreign Minister said. “We have certain mutual expectation of more pace on each side in meeting the expectation of the other side. And we discussed how that could be achieved,” the official said.
“We believe that both Belarus and the European Union have an important stake in our relationship because of the geographic and economic and human potential of Belarus,” Sergei Martynov underscored.
Partaking in the meeting from the European side were Carl Bildt, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy.
The session highlighted the issues related to the EU possible assistance to Belarus in overcoming the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis as well as providing Belarus with a full-fledged access to the loan and investment resources of the international financial institutions including the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank.
In Brussels Sergei Martynov also met with Vygaudas Usackas, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus, Javier Solana, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Laslo Kovacs, EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union.
Potential of Belarus-EU relations might be further untapped in 2009
The potential of the relations between Belarus and the European Union will be fulfilled in full, if the country adopts drastic and irreversible reforms and the European side sees significant progress as early as November 2009, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy.
According to the European commissioner, it is high time a new impetus were given to the Belarus-EU relations. In September the European Union will start studying the progress Minsk will have achieved in complying with the EU five major requirements. The complete abolition of visa sanctions will be considered by the EU foreign ministers in November. According to Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Belarus which is now an active participant of the Eastern Partnership initiative will be able to cooperate with the EU in the bilateral format.
The European commissioner noted that Brussels doubled the amount of aid it gives to Belarus – from EUR5 million to EUR10 million. At present the European Commission is considering a possibility to grant Belarus microeconomic aid and an opportunity to apply for loans to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. She stated that the EU has a lot to offer to Belarus in many areas, including macroeconomy, energy, trade and visa regulations.
Carl Bildt, the Foreign Minister of Sweden which holds the current EU Presidency, noted that “the Belarusian authorities can do more to strengthen relations with the European Union.” In his words, the EU “appreciates the determination of Belarus to develop close cooperation with the EU.”
Easing EU visa requirements is one of Belarus’ priorities, Foreign Minister says
“The visa barrier hampers free travel to Europe. Therefore the visa-related difficulties should be removed,” Sergei Martynov said.
According to the minister, Belarus has every reason to hope that the visa issues will be settled in its favor. “Our citizens have to pay for the Schengen visa twice as much as citizens of the neighboring countries. For Belarusians, visa procedures are extremely long and complicated,” Sergei Martynov added.
The second important issue on the Brussels-Minsk agenda is trade. “Belarus would like to see better terms for cooperation with the EU in this area,” Sergei Martynov said.
Belarusian young businessmen to participate in CIS International Business Forum
According to him, the special “Train of Friendship” will deliver participants of the forum, national delegations from the CIS countries, from Moscow to Omsk. The train will depart from Moscow on 13 September. On the way, the Train of Friendship will make short stops in Kazan and Yekaterinburg.
On 15-17 September, during the Year of the Youth of the Commonwealth of Independent States, the Russian city of Omsk will play host to the International Forum of Young Businessmen.
According to Yuri Krivodubski, during the forum, the Belarusian delegation will voice a number of issues connected with the problems of the youth business activity, the methods and forms of the state support for the youth entrepreneurship, the new approaches to the youth business activity.
The Russian Ministry of Sport, Tourism and Youth Policy is the founder of the forum which is organized by the Russian Union of Youth and the Omsk A.S. Popov Radio Manufacturing Plant.
Belarus, Russia to prepare report on climate change impact on economy
After this, the report will be considered during a session of the Council of Ministers of the Union State in September this year.
Participants of the joint session are expected to discuss the joint activity of the Belarusian and Russian ministries of natural resources and environmental protection and the Russian Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring.
The participants of the joint session will consider the sci-tech and operational activity including the personnel training for hydrometeorology, the international cooperation in this area.
According to the Permanent Committee of the Belarus-Russia Union State, the close cooperation and the joint activity within the framework of Union State’s Committee for Hydrometeorology and Environment Pollution Monitoring allow both the countries to develop and improve the cooperation between hydrometeorological services of Belarus and Russia.
Belarus’ industrial recession reversed
“The industrial production stabilized; even more than that, most ministries and agencies posted some growth in the relevant industries. The growth of stockpiles at industrial enterprises slowed down. “Most of the enterprises got back on track, all their monthly produce is sold,” the First Vice Premier said.
In H1 2009, a foundation was laid to reach a brand-new production level. The gradual production growth gave an opportunity to sell all the products manufactured during the month and significantly decrease the accumulated stockpiles.
Vladimir Semashko said that in 2009 the industrial growth should reach 99-100%, from 96.4% in H1; while the stockpiles should be reduced from 94.6% to 75%.
Belarus negotiates new loans to finance water supply projects
The utilities companies of Belarus are preparing feasibility studies and designs as well as bidding documents under the water supply and sanitation project, Deputy Minister of Housing and Public Utilities Sergei Sushko told a press conference on 28 July.
The World Bank has allocated the $60 million loan for this purpose. “We are now busy developing the commercial part of the project to strengthen the efficiency, governance, and sustainability of the service provision. This year we need to start using the loan,” Sergei Sushko said.
Simultaneously the Belarusian side is working with other international financial organizations which provide loan services for the projects on developing water supply and wastewater treatment services, power engineering. “For example, we are holding the negotiations with the Nordic Investment Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, other financial institutions which can issue grants under these projects,” Sergei Sushko said.
Belarus’ foreign trade totals $21.9bn in H1
In H1 2009, Belarus’ foreign trade reached $21.9 billion or 59.9% as against January-June 2008, Chairman of the National Statistics Committee Vladimir Zinovsky said at the session of the Council of Ministers on 28 July.
Belarus’ export earned $9 billion or 52.3%, import made up $12.9 billion or 66.6%. Belarus’ foreign trade deficit rose 1.8 times to $3.9 billion. In June alone it rose by $733 million.
The National Statistics Committee attributed the foreign trade deficit to the trade deficit in intermediate goods (energy sources, raw materials and parts). The foreign trade deficit in this group of products reached $3.2 billion, up $712.4 million over H1 2008.
In H1 2009 the export of Belarusian investment goods shrank 2.5 times. The imported investment products made up 81.5% as against January-June 2008. It resulted in the $425.1 million deficit in the trade in this commodity group. The deficit in foreign trade in investment products grew by $1 billion. It accounts for 61.3% of the total growth in foreign commodity trade deficit compared with H1 2008.
The head of the Committee added that the deficit in foreign trade in consumer goods fell from $335.2 million in H1 2008 to $285.4 million in January-June 2009.
EU ready to offer assistance to Belarus
|(L to R) Belarussian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt and European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner attend a press conference after the EU Troika meeting with Belarus in Brussels, capital of Belgium, on July 28, 2009.|
"We stand ready to support and re-engage with Belarus if indeed Belarus shows to be very serious in pursuing the moves toward democracy and fundamental freedoms," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy.
"We are currently therefore considering macrofinancial assistance and the possibility for Belarus to receive EIB (European Investment Bank) and EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) loans in the future," she told reporters after a meeting between EU officials and Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov.
However, she said it is too early to say how much money Belarus might receive as Minsk has to meet certain conditions. "The conditionality is, so to say, the IMF (International Monetary Fund)conditions."
The IMF approved a 2.5 billion U.S. dollar emergency loan package for Belarus in December 2008 to help Minsk tide over the economic crisis. The IMF agreed to increase financing support by 1billion dollars last month.
Ferrero-Waldner said the EU is ready to double its aid to Belarus in 2010, particularly in order to support Belarus' food safety and quality regimes so that the country could export to the EU.
Brussels has already doubled its aid for 2009 to Belarus from 5to 10 million euros (about 7.1 to 14.2 million U.S. dollars), she said.
The EU and Belarus could also work on energy cooperation in the future, she said. Belarus is a transit country for EU's energy imports from Russia.
The EU had imposed sanctions on Belarus to protest human rights abuses. Its travel ban on Belarusian leaders, including on President Alexander Lukashenko, has been suspended to allow rapprochement.
Mary Cantando Travels to Belarus to Help Women Start New Businesses
“I am honored to represent the U.S. State Department by supporting women who want to create new businesses that will allow them to share their regional culture.”
About Mary Cantando:
Mary Cantando is a nationally-recognized expert on women business owners. She is a Trustee of The Women’s Alliance, serves as the Business Growth Expert for Women Entrepreneurs, Inc., sits on the National Women’s Forum, and is certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council. She is also a Trustee of Columbia College and serves as a Chapter Chair for the Women Presidents’ Organization. Her newest book is Leading with Care: How Women Around the World are Inspiring Businesses, Empowering Communities, and Creating Opportunity (Jossey-Bass: Sept 2009). As a member of the National Speakers’ Association, Cantando speaks to women all over the world who want to grow their businesses.
RUSSIA: BELARUS’ POSITION ON ABKHAZIA AND SOUTH OSSETIA IS "BIZARRE"
In a move hailed in Georgia, the Belarusian foreign ministry urged its citizens on July 22 to seek consent from officials in Tbilisi in order to travel to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"This sounds bizarre," responded Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin on July 23. Karasin added that Belarus’s statement jams a spoke in Moscow’s push to secure international recognition of the two territories, Russia’s Vesti television reported.
"This decision is connected with Belarus’s attempts to flirt with the West, with the policy of attempting to span the distance with European Union countries," Russian parliamentarian Konstantin Zatulin was quoted as saying by Kavkazskiy Uzel news portal.
The Belarusian foreign ministry retorted on July 24 that the statement had to do with the security of its own citizens and that the Russians were overreacting.
Russia pledged $500 million in aid to financial crisis-battered Belarus, but Minsk claimed that recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is the price the Kremlin wants Belarus to pay for Russian largesse. The European Union strongly urged Minsk not to risk its ties with the West by recognizing the two regions.
Belarus started mass grain harvesting campaign
As of July 27, agrarians harvested grains and leguminous plants (without maize) throughout 121.000 ha, which totaled 5.21% from the general harvesting areas. Agricultural economies of Brest and Gomel oblasts take the leading places, harvesting 14.8% and 13% of planned areas respectively. Grodno oblast harvested 2.7% of planned areas, Minsk - 1.3%, Mogilev - 0.4%, Vitebsk - 0.12%.
The country harvested 452 thsd tonnes of grains. The yield of grains and leguminous plants totaled 37.52 c/ha, up 3.79 c/ha compared to the same date of the previous year.
Agrarians received the task to complete the mass harvesting campaign in 20 weather working days. But separate regions of the country can delay the harvesting campaign due to unfavorable weather conditions. Heavy rains have already restrained the harvesting campaign in central and northern regions.
The majority of agricultural economies continue harvesting of winter rapeseed. Agrarians harvested the oilseed throughout the area of 203.700 ha, which totaled 59.3% of planned areas. Agricultural economies of Gomel and Brest oblasts became the leaders of rapeseed campaign, harvesting 87.7% and 86.7% of planned areas respectively. Grodno oblast harvested winter rapeseed throughout 85.3% of planned areas, Minsk - 47%, Mogilev - 36%, Vitebsk - 27.6%.
Agrarians harvested flax-seed throughout 7.400 thsd ha (10.9%). At the same time, Minsk oblast harvested flaxseed throughout 19% of planned areas, Gomel - 14%, Mogilev - 11%, Grodno - 8.9%, Vitebsk - 4.2%.
Belarus produced over 64 thsd tonnes of rolled grains
Agricultural economies of Belarus produced over 64 thsd tonnes of rolled grains, declared the Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
Rolled grain is one of the most efficient measures of forage conservation and reduction of losses during the harvesting campaign. Bruising allows to process and silo damp grains, and provide grain storing during the period of the highest food value and yield of dry basis in grains.
As of July 28, Belarus harvested grains and leguminous plants (without maize) throughout the area of 139.300 ha, which totaled 5.9% of planned areas. The country produced 524 thsd tonnes of grains. Grodno and Mogilev oblasts showed the highest yield indices, which reached levels of 45.9 and 42.6 c/ha respectively.
Breaking all records: credit balance deficit of Belarus reached $3.9 billion
From: Charter '97
As Interfax informs, it has been stated at the session of the Council of Ministers by the chairman of the National Statistics Committee of Belarus Uladzimir Zinouski.
As said by Uladzimir Zinouski, in June taken alone the adverse balance of foreign trade in Belarus has grown by $733 mln. Thus, the adverse balance in foreign trade in the first half of the year 2009 was $3.9 billion. It is 1.8 times more than in the first half of 2008.
The head of the National Statistics Committee explained that the growth of the adverse balance of foreign trade has been caused by the decrease of export by 47.7% to $9 billilon while import has dropped by 33.4% (to $12.9 billion). As a result, the external trade turnover of Belarus in the first half of the year dropped by 40.1% (to $21.9 billion dollars).
Uladzimir Zinouski stated that the main reason for growth of the adverse balance of foreign trade is operations with intermediate goods (energy resources, raw materials, constituent parts). In the first half of 2009 the deficit in their trade has grown by $712.4 mln.
Editor of magazine of Union of Poles in Belarus summoned to prosecutor’s office
Ihar Bantsar doesn’t exclude the reason for summons was the May issue of “Magazyn Polski na uchodlstwie”, containing a number of critical materials about Alyaksandr Lukashenka and measures taken by the committee of state security (KGB) against independent journalists. Besides, a collage depicting Lukashenka as Russian tsar Alexander III was placed on the cover, the independent journalist told Radio Svaboda.
“It’s obvious for me that the only reason for going to the prosecutor’s office is confiscation of the magazine I head. Officer of the prosecutor’s office Karavaeu refused to answer a question why I was summoned, but I don’t see another reason. “
In late June this year, militia officers seized more than 70 copies of “Magazyn Polski na uchodlstwie” from activists of the unofficial Union of Poles in Belarus led by Angelika Borys, who were going to Ivyanets to meet with their supporters. According to militia officers, the copies of the magazine were sent to a commission of experts. Ihar Bantsar is probably summoned to the prosecutor’s office on the result of the examination. In accordance with the summons, the journalist must appear in the governmental institution on July 29.
Russia Warns U.S. Against Sending Monitors to Georgia
“The U.S. presence will sharply increase the likelihood of border provocations, given the United States’ role in last year’s events,” an unidentified diplomat told the Interfax news service. “As for U.S.-Russian relations, such a move will certainly not improve, but only worsen relations by adding a new issue.”
Georgia is eager for the United States to contribute to the European Union’s monitoring effort, a group of 246 unarmed civilian observers who travel along the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia reporting any violence. American officials say they have not decided whether to participate, but will consider the possibility if the European Union’s member states invite them.
No decision on whether to invite the United States will be made until autumn at the earliest, said Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, which holds the union’s rotating presidency, at a news conference in Brussels on Monday.
The European Union’s mission is the only international group patrolling the conflict zones near South Ossetia and Abkhazia, breakaway Georgian territories that have been under Russian protection since last summer’s war. The mission, created during the French-brokered cease-fire agreement last August, was extended for another year on Monday. Russia and the separatist forces have blocked them from patrolling in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
This summer, observers from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were forced to leave the country after Russia blocked their missions’ extension, arguing that international bodies should recognize the territories’ independence if they wish to continue working there.
Obama administration says Russia could join NATO
Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday that the United States would consider Russian membership in the military alliance that was founded to protect Europe from Soviet aggression.
Gordon said NATO should be open to European democracies. He added that "if Russia meets the criteria and can contribute to common security, and there is a consensus in the alliance, it shouldn't be excluded."
NATO is often vilified in Russia, which has objected to NATO's expansion to include Russia's neighbors.
But the Obama administration, seeking better relations, says it wants to convince Moscow that NATO is no longer a threat.
Russia frees crime boss wanted by U.S.
From: Washington Post
Semion Mogilevich, who the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says created a powerful crime group in Eastern Europe in the 1990s, was arrested in Russia in 2008 and accused of tax evasion at a major cosmetics retailer.
Mogilevich and alleged associate Vladimir Nekrasov were released because the terms under which they could be held had expired, said Irina Dudukina, a spokeswoman at the Interior Ministry's Investigative Committee.
The charges "are not of a particularly grave nature so investigators had no particular reason to keep them imprisoned," Dudukina said.
Mogilevich's lawyers have repeatedly said their client was innocent and denied any links to the cosmetics chain Arbat Prestige, where prosecutors said the tax evasion took place.
Dudukina said the case had not been dropped and would be sent to court on Monday or Tuesday after investigators had corrected a mistake that had delayed it.
The FBI says on its website that Mogilevich is wanted for racketeering, fraud and money laundering. Ukrainian-born Mogilevich has denied U.S. allegations that he is a crime boss.
Moscow has received an extradition request for Mogilevich from the United States, but has said it will not hand him over. Russia says its constitution does not allow the extradition of its citizens.
When Mogilevich was arrested, analysts said the real motive could be linked to accusations that he was involved in the multi-billion-dollar gas trade between Russia and Ukraine.
Ukraine's Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has accused Mogilevich of being behind RosUkrEnergo, an intermediary firm which sells gas to Ukraine. Mogilevich has previously denied through a lawyer any links to the firm.
Polish football league ranked 77th
The Polish Ekstraklasa has been ranked lower than leagues of such countries as Uzbekistan, Angola, Chile, Belarus or Hungary. This shows a sad reality that our football, with no training specialist, corrupt referees and hooligans at many stadiums has also adjusted its sport value to those negative phenomena.
However not all people see it this way. A spokesperson for Ekstraklasa drian Skubis said: “It is a great mistake to compare leagues from different continents. For example in Uzbekistan there is one club that wins everything in domestic league and cups for years now. For this reason this club is ranked higher than any other Polish club, which has to compete at a higher level with many equal rivals. For this reason this ranking does not make sense.”
There might be a pinch of truth in that as all Polish clubs are desperate to play in Ekstraklasa, because of the prestige and money. However the uprising defeat of Wisla Cracow by the Eastland Champions yesterday shows a painful truth. Polish league football is in a crisis that was not ever seen before and if nothing changes the situation can be even worse.
In Poland, Symbols of the Third Reich are not illegal
According to investigators form The Internal Security Agency in Wroclaw it is not illegal to produce and sell things symbolizing the Third Reich. In 2005 the agency found out that one of jeweller’s workshops was producing replicas of Hitlerian orders, decorations and signet rings with skulls. These commodities were ordered by a German citizen who assured that he was a collector.
As it turned out, all replicas were sold through a German Internet website, working on Polish server. It is not allowed to sell similar goods in Germany. In Poland they will go unpunished. Also the biggest Polish Internet portal “Allegro” decided to ban all people who describes their items with words connected with totalitarianism. On the other hand they cannot forbid to sell those thinks because of Polish law.
Polish 7 year old stuffed with amphetamine
Policemen told TVN24 news channel that they needed couple of hours to determine who the owner of the amphetamine was. They also want to know if the girl has taken the drug herself or was she given it by one of guests.
The incident happened during an open air party with girl's parents and their friends.
The girl feels fine right now. She had to have her stomach pumped.
Central Investigation Bureau has confiscated over 40 kg of drugs
In two days agents stopped seven people in vicinity of Cracow, Wroclaw and Lublin that are suspected to cooperate with this illicit cannabis plantation.
The Police informed that part of detained people were previously penalized for drug related crimes. This time they face up to 8 years behind bars for drug possession.
Belarusian sportsmen recieve 48 liscenses in 5 disciplins for the Vancouver Olympics
|On 25 July a combined team of Belarusian NHL stars and Dynamo Minsk players, who returned from vacation several days ago and began preparation for the new season, played a practice match with the team of the President of Belarus in the Ice Arena of the Palace of Sport in Minsk.|
23 sportsmen will be a part of the National hockey team. The command guaranteed itself a place in the games a year ago by placing 9th in the 2008 world championships.
In freestyle 4 admissions were received by our men. It is expected, that 2 more permits could be won by women.
Belarus received a full quota of Biathlon shooters, also based on the results of last years world championships.
Skaters as well as representatives of shorts-tracks, will play Olympic licenses in a forthcoming season.
Figure skaters were not given accreditation to the Games but one representative, Alexander Kazakov, will try to make his way to Vancouver during additional selection competitions.
The official decision of the International Federation of Skiing (FIS) is expected by January, 18th, 2010 when national Olympic committees of all countries will receive the final lists of the sportsmen who have successfully demonstrated themselves to be of Olympic caliber.
In cross-country Belarus has 10 passes to Vancouver (5 men’s and 5 women’s), but here as well it is necessary to wait for the official decision of the International federation of skiing.
In mountain skiing, receiving two licenses for the woman’s team is expected.
In total Belarus plans sending sportsmen in 9 types of Olympic programs.
There is a process of accreditation for the Belarusian Olympic Team our command for the Games going on now, solving questions on equipment for the athletes and officials, bookings for visiting the competitions are already issued.
On July, 27th The National Olympic Committee of Belarus has signed a contract for accommodatiosn of the delegation in the Olympic villages in Whistler and Vancouver with organizing committee of the Games. The advance payment for representatives of mass-media was made with advance payments. Four newspaper journalists and two press photographers will be in attendance for the Olympiad along with 20 experts from the First channel, Belteleradiokompanii.
The National Olympic committee also has ordered the creation of a telephone communications facility for press services along with Internet-access. They have also began work transportation and other necessities for the national team.
THE EU'S EASTERN PARTNERSHIP: STILL-BORN?
The Eastern Partnership is part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and covers six countries – Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. It comprises a population of 76 million. Will the EU’s new initiative be able to fulfil its main objectives of bringing stability, better governance and economic development to the Eastern partners? Doubts exist already. The initiative adds little to the ENP in support of democratic transition at the EU’s borders.
A NEW OFFER
The initiative to strengthen the EU’s policy towards the Eastern neighbours was put forward by Poland and Sweden in May 2008 and was granted further importance by the outbreak of the war between Russia and Georgia in August 2008. Following the Commission’s Communication of December 2008, the European Council issued a declaration on the Eastern Partnership. This became the new EU policy towards its Eastern neighbourhood.
The EaP pursues the EU’s vital interests at the Eastern borders. It ostensibly promotes stability, good governance and economic development. Through the EaP the EU will support its neighbours’ efforts to draw closer to the bloc and to align with its reform programme. The EaP will be based on mutual commitments to democratic values and the market economy.
The EaP goals will be implemented both bilaterally and multilaterally. Along the bilateral route, the EU will offer Eastern partners the following possibilities: developing strong political ties with the bloc, economic integration and convergence with the EU through association agreements, deep and comprehensive free trade areas, increased citizen mobility, energy cooperation and aid for institution-buildingand regional cohesion. Neighbours’ progress in democratisation and in establishing the rule of law and the principle of human rights will be a precondition for deepening bilateral relations with the EU. The multilateral track envisages integration among the Eastern neighbours as well as a discussion and cooperation forum to support the implementation of EaP objectives. The EaP provides for a multilateral institutional framework involving different levels of representation for both the EU institutions and the Eastern partners. Four thematic platforms are to be established: democracy, good governance and stability; economic integration and convergence; energy security; and people-to-people contact. In addition, the Commission has offered “flagship initiatives” for cooperation in such areas as integrated border management, small and medium-sized business development, energy efficiency and disaster management. The EaP will be financed mainly through the EU contribution already available to the Eastern ENP partners via the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI) for 2007-2013. The EaP budget will amount to €600 million between 2009 and 2013. The EU also depends on extensive cooperation with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as other international and bilateral donors.
The EaP also keeps open the possibility of the participation of third parties – for example Russia or Turkey – on a case-by-case basis and in regard to concrete projects, activities or meetings within the thematic platforms.
DETERIORATING DEMOCRACY AND SECURITY
The ENP has been continuously criticised for its lack of success in achieving its main goals of promoting stability, security and prosperity. A few countries are progressing within the ENP (Ukraine, Morocco) and the EU has managed to raise its profile and increase its economic ties with its neighbours. But overall progress on reform in the region is unimpressive. The EU has been relatively successful in promoting economic reform.
This is not the case with regard to democracy and human rights. The numerous reports by the European Commission and other international actors who screen democratic developments in the region (e.g. the Council of Europe, the U.S. State Department) record that the EU’s Eastern neighbours have been too slow in transforming their political regimes and their policies. Such groups say that they have even witnessed negative trends.
Last year was particularly unsuccessful for the ENP. In the last report on its implementation, the Commission recognised that “overall the pace of reform has slowed, particularly in democratic reforms and human rights standards.”
The ENP pioneer country, Ukraine, has sunk into an endless political crisis and is among the countries hardest hit by the economic and financial crisis. Moldova is still mired in the post-electoral crisis that followed the March parliamentary elections. The country has gone backwards in terms of respect for human rights and civic freedoms.
Its future democratic development is uncertain. Looking for external help to rescue Belarus’ economy from the impact of the global crisis and the increase in Russian gas prices, Belarus’ president Aleksandar Lukashenka wants closer ties with the EU. However, he will not concede much in terms of political reform, since it would place his own power in danger.
Armenia’s post-electoral crisis of March 2008 and the subsequent state of emergency have been followed by repression of the opposition and further restrictions on political freedom. Meanwhile, post-war Georgia has been shaken by the street protests of the opposition – who demand President Mikheil Saakashvili’s resignation – and a failed military coup d'etat. After Belarus, Azerbaijan is the most authoritarian country of the six EaP countries. Despite opposition protests and criticism by Western democratic governments, limits on presidential terms were abolished by referendum in March 2009.
The security situation has also worsened as a result of the war between Russia and Georgia, as well as of Russia’s recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and of energy disputes between Ukraine and Russia that cut European oil supplies in the winter.
In general, the EU has achieved limited results in dealing with the conflicts in the Eastern neighbourhood. Russia has largely ignored the Sarkozy-Medvedev six-point ceasefire agreement and has increased its military presence in Georgian territory. At the same time, no accord has been reached between the EU, Ukraine and Russia regarding the stable supply of gas over the next year.
The ENP seems to be a “decapitated” version of the EU enlargement policy. While the policy aims at promoting democratic change, economic integration and policy convergence between its participants and the EU, and while it largely relies on theenlargement policy toolbox, it offers no prospect of accession for the EU’s European neighbours. The EaP does not change the situation.
What the EaP is offering in bilateral terms arose from the model of EU-Ukraine relations. This means that the EaP has little left to offer Ukraine itself - the EU’s best pupil in the ENP. The EU has extended the offer of an association agreement, which was negotiated with Ukraine after 2007, to other Eastern neighbours. The prospect of signing such an agreement will depend on the neighbours’ progress in terms of democracy and human rights. This is a logical step on the part of the European Commission, since the current Partnership and Cooperation Agreements (PCA) between the EU and South Caucasus countries expire this year. Moldova was offered a new agreement, with the prospect of free trade and a visafree regime in the long term, when the Moldova-EU PCA expired in 2008.
The EU’s bilateral offer is realistic for Belarus only from a very long-term perspective. Until very recently relations between the EU and Belarus were consistently poor. The EU-Belarus PCA was signed but has never entered into force, because the EU chose to freeze relations with the Belarus government when Aleksandar Lukashenka restricted political freedoms. Since 2002 the EU has made several attempts to begin a gradual normalisation, but none has been successful. The last attempt was made in 2008, when contacts between the Commission and the Belarus government were re-established at a technical level. The Commission opened its delegation in Minsk in 2008. Recently, the visa ban against Belarus’ key government officials was rescinded. Nonetheless, European states are divided on the issue of EU relations with Belarus. Isolating Belarus did not work. But there is no sign that Lukashenka will make any significant step towards political liberalisation in response to the new strategy. Thus even though Belarus has been invited to the EaP, its participation in this initiative is doubtful.
Deep and comprehensive free trade areas are regarded by the EU as an important tool for achieving the gradual integration of neighbours into the EU’s internal market. This offer is nothing new. The majority of Eastern partners have already received such an offer. Moreover, the offer is too remote for most of them. The feasibility studies carried out by the Commission on Armenia and Georgia conclude that these states are “not ready for such a far-reaching liberalisation”.
The feasibility study for Moldova should be ready in summer 2008, but its conclusion is likely to be similar. In any case this country already benefits from its current trade agreement with the EU (Autonomous Trade Preferences), within which Moldova enjoys generous quotas for its main export items, such as wine and agricultural products.
Trade agreements for Azerbaijan and Belarus are probably even further off, since neither of the countries is a WTO member. Their WTO accession negotiations are stuck. It is doubtful that Belarus can ever benefit from free trade with the EU while it is a member of a Russia-led customs union.
Within the package aimed at creating more citizen mobility there are several short-term incentives. The EU promises a visa facilitation agreement, more comprehensive consular coverage, and common visa application centres. The quid pro quo of these incentives for the recipient countries are the adoption of readmission agreements and migration policy reforms. So far only Ukraine and Moldova have worked out visa facilitation and readmission agreements with the EU, while Georgia has launched a visa dialogue with a view to starting visa facilitation negotiations.
Ukraine’s experience with implementation of the visa facilitation agreement shows that this tool is far from being able to foster greater mobility and people-to-people contact. First, the agreement is limited in scope. It facilitates visa access only to some categories of citizens.
Second, a study conducted by a Ukrainian NGO shows that the agreement is not equally applied by all Schengen states. Visa facilitation is not an incentive that will affect reform of the law enforcement agencies and judiciary in the partner countries. In the meantime, EU members are too cautious to offer the prospect of doing away with visas completely, even in the case of the ENP frontrunners. In the declaration produced during the Prague summit, the EU states diluted the Commission’s offer of “visafree visafree travel to all cooperating partners” to a vague promise of “visa liberalisation”.
The Comprehensive Institution-Building Programme is a positive innovation of the EaP, which draws upon the EU’s experience of Europeanising candidate states. But there is no significant increase in EU aid envisaged in the medium term. In addition, EU countries are cutting their bilateral aid programmes.The EU’s offer of €600million for six countries between 2009 and 2013 is not enough to implement the ambitious EaP goals. In the period from 2009 to 2012 Turkey will receive pre-accession funds to an amount almost five times bigger than the aid that will go to all six Eastern partners put together.
The EaP’s multilateral approach is another innovation. It is a reflection of the EU’s idea of promoting regional integration as a route to peace and economic prosperity. But such integration between Eastern partners aiming to join the EU market may be possible only in the long term and the Commission recognises this fact in its Communication, when it refers to “the Neighbourhood Economic Community” as “a further step … in the longer term”.
The dialogue envisaged between the EU and the partner countries at different political levels – along with the idea to convene the EU-Eastern partners Parliamentary Assembly and Civil Society Forum – is a valuable advance. It will create better communication and socialisation at the different levels. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure that the Eastern partners’ opposition forces and their independent NGOs also have a say in this dialogue It is still not clear, however, how the EaP’s multilateral component will interact with the Black Sea Synergy, another EU initiative set up in the region in 2007 and which covers all the EaP countries bar Belarus. The Commission assures that the two initiatives have different focuses and are complementary. Seemingly, the EaP is oriented towards the gradual Europeanisation of the EU’s Eastern neighbours – the “centre of gravity” of the process being in Brussels – while the Black Sea Synergy is an inclusive cooperation framework for the Eastern partners, EU members, EU candidate Turkey and Russia. However, in the vast majority of areas the two EU initiatives overlap. Both seek to stimulate reform in the areas of energy, trade, environment, transport, good governance and migration.
For the Eastern ENP frontrunners (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia) the EaP offers too little to change their approach. For the laggards, the EaP’s rewards are too remote to outweigh the costs of reform and convergence. Ukraine’s progress in the ENP can to a large extent be explained by the fact that the country hopes to become an EU member once it is integrated in the common market and has converged with EU policies. The leaderships of Belarus, Azerbaijan and Armenia have no serious aspiration to join the EU in the foreseeable future. So why would they change their policies? Another potential risk to the EaP comes from Russia. The Russian government is extremely sensitive to any kind of Western influence in its sphere of interest. Moreover, the EU is not ready to withstand Russia’s opposition to the growing Eastern Partnership. As in the case of European debate over NATO’s enlargement to Ukraine and Georgia prior to the Bucharest NATO summit of 2008, some EU members might find that it is not in their national interest to invest too much – either politically or financially - in the EaP. As long as there is no single EU position on Russia, the whole Eastern neighbourhood project will be at risk in the long term.
The establishment of the EaP as a specific policy within the ENP creates the potential to increase EU engagement in the region. However, the EaP does not address the main weaknesses of the ENP.
It lacks strong and timely incentives, which are differentiated between the Eastern partners according to their level of ambition and the progress of their reforms. The EaP's ambitious objectives have moreover been provided with too little financial support. The EaP will duplicate the ENP’s lack of effectiveness in promoting reform.
The stagnating enlargement process, the Union’s internal divisions over Russia and ambivalence over the promotion of democracy in other states all contribute to the weakening of the Eastern neighbourhood policy. Whilst at the macro-level the EU urgently needs reforms that will strengthen its role in the international arena, at the micro-level the EU could further improve its policy towards its Eastern neighbours.
Differentiating policy approaches between the Eastern partners who are willing to join the EU and implement reforms and those who do not have such aspirations would also be useful. The frontrunners should be awarded more generously in terms of aid, the abolition of the visa regime and recognition of their EU accession prospects as European states. The extent to which the EU’s neighbours take the EaP seriously will depend on EU members’ own commitment. The leaders of France, the UK, Italy and Spain stayed away from the first EaP summit in Prague. The EU’s latest flagship policy has not enjoyed an auspicious start.