New export support and development programme may merely address old problems
The Government on August 1st, 2016 approved new Export Support and Development Programme for 2016 - 2020. The programme envisages to "reduce dependence on traditional export products and markets”, as well as "product diversification" in order to increase exports by circa 21-25%, and the share of exported industrial products to 65% of production volumes. In addition, it aspires to increase the export segment of "new promising markets" up to 10%, and divide exports equally between the EU market, the EEU, and other regions. However, amid economic recession and the preservation of the Belarusian economic model, these plans are unlikely to be implemented. The government is likely to focus on preserving Belarus’ positions on the usual markets (Russia, Ukraine, and Central Asia) for traditional industrial and agricultural products, which will continue to dominate and which are extremely difficult to market.
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.