Minsk aspires to compensate for economic failures with foreign policy successes
Last week, President Lukashenka met with Pope Francis at the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. In addition, the president held talks with President Sergio Mattarella during a two-day visit to Italy. The Belarusian authorities aspire that the president’s official visit to Rome and the Vatican will open opportunities for expanding top-level political contacts with some EU countries, which are interested in cooperation with Belarus. Thanks to the Holy See, Minsk hopes to consolidate its image of a peacemaker and take the focus of the human rights issues in the Belarusian-European relations. In addition, the Belarusian authorities are hoping to organize the Pope’s visit to Minsk. The Belarusian delegation to Rome included representatives of all Christian confessions in Belarus. The Orthodox Church was represented by Archpriest Feodor Povny, known as Lukashenka’s personal confessor. There is no unity among analysts regarding whether the Belarusian Orthodox Church has coordinated its activities with the Russian Orthodox Church.
According to Belstat, in August 7,600 people were dismissed, including 4,800 civil servants. Dismissals of civil servants were due to the optimisation in the public administration by up to 30%. Some civil servants would retain their job however would lose the status of a civil servant. Vacancies on the labour market are likely to reduce in number, thanks to the optimisation, the state administration would increase wages for public servants. The payroll fund for retained employees is likely to increase and some former state employees are likely to get jobs in affiliated organizations. The optimisation of the state apparatus should complete by January 1st, 2018, and some former civil servants are likely to join the ranks of the unemployed.