Archive for September, 2009

Some Tons of Belarusian Socks?

Global economic crisis demands new extensive measures. Belarusian authorities as always come up with fresh, innovative ideas.

Agriculture in Belarus is loss-making but the authorities are still proud of it. Within the next five years the modernisation of the whole industry is to be sped up to reach the European level of production. The new 2011-2015 rural development programme is aimed at increasing the efficiency of farming and reaching a profitability rate of 25 to 30 percent…

Hrodna region which borders on Lithuania and Poland already suggested selling stones to EU. Why not? We have abundance of those on our fields. The pain will be just to collect and wash them. The product made in Belarus is export ready.

But the best idea however belongs to the government. The power-wielding structures — Ministry of Internal, KGB (!), Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Emergency Situations (!), Defence Ministry, State Customs Committee — received a list with recommended number of tons of Belarusian goods to be sold to the respective ministries abroad by the end of the year. There’s everything on the list: Belarusian sweets, furniture, tracksuits, rubber shoes, TV-sets, fridges… Luckily no stones.

State Customs Committee for eg. is expected to sell 700 tons of beetroot a carrot, 200 tons of sausage, 40 000 shirts, 50 000 boxers, etc. KGB officers have it easier, their list is almost 5 times smaller. But not that of the Ministry of Defence, they have to find a purchaser for the furniture (equivalent to 23 million dollars); 11,5 tons of cheese and cottage cheese; 2,15 tonsof  sausage. Hope, they will have time and resources for the rest of the duties.

Customs Committee head Alyaksandr Shpilewski explained the recommendation was not really about selling the goods, but helping Belarusian enterprises find contacts and partners abroad.

You never know which could work better in these difficult times.

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I Am that I Am

Lukashenka goes for the West. That’s what Russian press understood from his working visit to Vilnius on September’16. First time since 1998 he went to Lithuania and – to EU.

But no, he is not going to take sides between Russia and EU.

While in Vilnius he was talking about the importance of the relations with Brussels and Belarus’ contribution into European security. He said Minsk was not going to make any special moves to impress the West to have the sanctions lifted: if EU wanted to improve relations and have a dialogue, it’d just do this.

At the same time he tried to comfort Moscow telling Lithuanian journalists that Belarusian parliament would look into the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in October. Underlining Russia is an important partner for Minsk.

Lukashenka repeated the usual things he instructs his ministers with. Interesting enough that the same rhetoric sounds very different outside Belarus.

Back home his quotes are to be written up and analysed, they pave the way for the development of the country. In Vilnius he seemed to be defending his right to be the way he is, to rule the country his way. He went on the defensive simply to be understood.

Love me or leave me, is the message to the EU. You won’t change me but we could try and come to a compromise to normalise relations.

PS

It’s also that Lukashenka was pretty nervous. That’s very understandable: his offices have everything under control in Minsk, when and where everyone goes, they line up journalists and usually decide on the questions.

The change of the situation is clearly seen in his pictures. The limited number of Belarusian photographers who work with the President can take pictures of him only from certain perspectives, afterwards the pictures are edited in Photoshop. In Vilnius any photographer could work almost from any place. And in these pictures Lukashenka looks older, he looks worked out and strained. And by the way, very human.

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Georgian Way To EU Via Belarus

In August six thousand Georgian citizens crossed the Belarusian border to get to EU: Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Don’t you think it’s strange? 6 000 Georgian samurai coming to Belarus late summer to travel further…

If you take a closer look at numbers, it’s even more strange: August’21: 201 Georgian citizen crossed the Belarus-Polish border, 175 were sent back; August’24: 247 Georgians tried to get into Poland, 244 were turned back; August’25: out of 175 Georgians – 172 were not successful.

They were refused entry as they didn’t have a Schengen visa. Belarusian border officers do not check whether people leaving the country have an appropriate visa to travel further.

The amazed Belarusian border authorities say that Georgians come with their families, often having sold all their property back home. First, they try to get into EU without the visa. As they are sent back, they apply for it. The lucky ones are free to try again, the unfortunate confront the choice: apply again, go home or attempt to get into EU illegally, through the green zones.

The number of Georgians who picks up the last variant grows at an exponential rate: 5 were arrested in Belarus in June, 10 – in July and 60 – in August.

More over, first they only tried to sneak into Poland, now to the Baltic states.

One of the best explanations that I heard: after the Russia–Georgia conflict last year Polish President Lech Kaczynski went to Georgia several times to display his solidarity with the people. The Georgians felt that they would be welcomed in Poland any time – their Georgian passport will open up the border and secure a job in Poland. So off they went in numbers.

That’s actually a wonderful opportunity for Belarus to boast of the ¡No pasarán! shield that the country is for illegal migrants.

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