Belarus insists on her terms for visa liberalization with EU
Belarusian Deputy Foreign Minister Elena Kupchina said that during negotiations with the EU on visa facilitation and readmission, no agreement had been reached regarding visa-free trips for diplomats and members of official delegations. The Belarusian authorities want political conditions for the resumption of the Belarus-EU dialogue to be completely removed, including the suspension or lift of EU sanctions without the release of political prisoners. The Belarusian authorities say that the EU is ready for more pragmatic relations with Belarus, however, with the preservation of rhetoric about human rights and democratisation. In addition, official Minsk seeks to impose its vision on the development of Belarus-EU relations when Brussels starts consultations on the revision and reformatting of the European Neighbourhood Policy towards Belarus. Meanwhile, the Belarusian government has no intention to change its attitude towards political opponents, and is more likely to toughen conditions for the opposition activities before the 2015 presidential election.
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.