Minsk ponders death penalty moratorium benefits
On April 11th, Alexander Hessel, Council of Europe Director for political issues visited Minsk.
Meetings in Minsk with CoE representative, Alexander Hessel, imply that Belarus is considering options to open an additional communication channel with the EU. In addition, Belarus may try to "swap" a moratorium on the death penalty with one of the conditions for the resumption of EU-Belarus dialogue.
In Minsk, Mr. Hessel gave a lecture at the Belarusian State University, met with Foreign Ministry officials and the Constitutional Court. Meeting at the Constitutional Court in particular, may be regarded as an implication that the Belarusian authorities are considering a moratorium on the death penalty as an option. Moratorium on the death penalty is an obligatory condition for the resumption of talks for Belarus’ accession to the Council of Europe.
The day after Hessel’s visit, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Jean-Claude Minion made a statement about the Council of Europe’s readiness to continue talks with Belarus about its membership in the CoE, but only if the moratorium on the death penalty was introduced. According to Mignon, such a step would show that Belarus “shares European values”.
If Belarusian authorities see benefits from the resumption of the dialogue with the CoE, they might include the moratorium on the death penalty in the negotiations package put forward by the EU (release and rehabilitation of political prisoners, democratization of the political system, etc). In particular, the authorities may try to “swap” the moratorium with the demand of political prisoners’ rehabilitation.
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.