Minsk anticipates to lower sensitivity threshold of Western capitals to repression in Belarus
At a meeting with Rapporteur on Belarus of the Political Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Andrea Rigoni, President Lukashenka talked about the need to continue the dialogue with European institutions. Minsk suggested that the EU lowered demand in respect for human rights and democracy in Belarus and limited to moderate criticism. Simultaneously, the authorities have changed tactics in relations with Western capitals; they recognized some problems in the human rights field and talked about their readiness to improve the situation with democracy gradually. Minsk reiterated the issue of the moratorium (or abolition) on the death penalty to cover up tighter repressions and to soften criticism from European officials. Most likely, the Belarusian authorities hope to continue improving the Belarusian-European relations by making medium-term concessions on the death penalty, e.g. not issuing death sentences or not carrying out executions within the next year. In addition, Minsk reckons that the EU would reduce its sensitivity to human rights violations by inertia due to the ongoing dialogue with the Belarusian leadership, the geopolitical factor and the role of Minsk in deterring the Kremlin’s aggressive foreign policy, as well as by stretching the application of severe repressive practices in time.
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.