Belarusian authorities aim for visa liberalisation due to economic reasons
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.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.