Belarusian authorities aim for visa liberalisation due to economic reasons

October 31, 2016 11:25

Foreign tourists can visit the Augustov Canal, a special tourist and recreational park and the surrounding area without a visa if they stay under five days. According to travel agents, due to the visa-free regime tourists visiting Belarus have increased in number, mainly from the neighbouring Poland and Lithuania. Meanwhile, the Belarusian authorities do not seem to be interested in visa liberalisation for Belarusians, including visa-free small border traffic with Lithuania and Poland, which is likely due to economic concerns and protectionism. The Belarusian authorities are afraid of currency export by the population. However, the authorities are considering the possibility of further liberalisation and opening Belarus for foreigners and enabling visa-free travel throughout the country. Amid economic recession, they aspire that this could have a positive effect on the economy.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.