Minsk relies on normalising relations with European Union in near future
The Belarusian government seeks to use the opportunities, which events in Ukraine have opened, in order to soften the EU countries’ stands. Authorities in Minsk believe the relations with the European Union could be improved on their terms, i.e. without any changes in domestic policy and without releasing political prisoners. Meanwhile, if the Belarusian authorities do not get sufficient resources to buy the population’s loyalty ahead of the presidential elections, they might tighten the environment for opposition activity.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkyavichus disagreed with some Lithuanian media that Russia might use Belarus to put pressure on Lithuania, including using territorial claims.
The Belarus’ Foreign Ministry has become more active in the EU countries, which has already yielded some positive results. Statements by Belarus’ officials in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and some other EU countries, imply that the governments of these countries have started revising their attitudes towards the Belarusian leadership.
The Belarusian authorities pin hopes on the new EU member-states to soften their stands, because their reactions to the Russian aggression in Ukraine have been rather acute. Primarily, these countries include the Baltic countries, Poland and other countries of the ‘Warsaw Pact’, which have had a negative experience of the Soviet invasion in the second half of the twentieth century.
It should be noted that the Belarus’ Foreign Ministry’s main lines have not changed, rather gained a new dimension amid events in Ukraine: the current leadership preserves the county’s independence; President Lukashenko ensures political stability and secure borders, including migration policy. Belarus’ Foreign Minister Makei emphasised, that “We must pay a tribute, and Europe also has to acknowledge this, that it is due to the incumbent President, that Belarus has her own, independent foreign policy, no matter how difficult it is. Thanks to the current president, we preserved the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of our country”.
As evidenced by the World Ice Hockey Championships’ organisation, Belarus has ignored calls from Western capitals to ensure citizens’ political freedoms. When it concerned public safety, the Belarusian authorities traditionally used force. Before and during the World Ice Hockey Championships several dozen youth and opposition activists, including representatives of the independent media, were detained and arrested in Minsk and in the regions.
Belarus’ authorities will seek to normalise relations with European capitals in the near future. However, the Belarusian government will not improve the domestic political climate and will not release political prisoners.
President Lukashenka continues to rotate staff and rejuvenate heads of departments and universities following new appointments in regional administrations. Apparently, new Information Minister Karliukevich could somewhat relax the state policy towards the independent media and introduce technological solutions for retaining control over Belarus’ information space. New rectors could strengthen the trend for soft Belarusization in the regions and tighten the disciplinary and ideological control over the student movement in the capital.
President Lukashenka has appointed new ministers of culture and information, the new rector of the Belarusian State University and heads of three universities, assistants in the Minsk and Vitebsk regions.
The new Information Minister Karliukevich is likely to avoid controversial initiatives similar to those former Minister Ananich was famous for, however, certainly within his capacities. Nevertheless, the appointment of Belarusian-speaking writer Karliukevich could be regarded as the state’s cautious attempt to relax environment in the media field and ensure the sovereignty of national media.
The Belarusian leadership has consolidated the trend for mild Belarusization by appointing a young historian and a ‘reasonable nationalist’, Duk as the rector at the Kuleshov State University in Mogilev. Meanwhile, while choosing the head of the Belarusian State University, the president apparently had in mind the strengthening of the ideological loyalty among the teaching staff and students at the main university in order to keep the youth movement at bay. Previously, Korol was the rector of the Kupala State University in Grodno, where he held purges among the disloyal teaching staff.
The trend for the renewal of mid-ranking executives and their rejuvenation has confirmed. The age of the Culture Minister and three new rectors varies from 39 to 44 years old.