Minsk is torn between repressions and attempts to revive a dialogue with the West
On May 2 an office of Radio Racja, a Belarusian and Polish radio, was searched and equipment was confiscated. On May 3, it was reported that a room that had previously been confirmed for the Belarusian NGO Assembly congress on May 5-6 was denied.
The escalation of oppressive measures against Belarusian journalists and NGO representatives continues following the brutal arrests of Chernobyl Way participants on April 26 in Minsk. Most likely Minsk has considered the decision by the EU Council of Foreign Ministers taken on April 23 not to expand sanctions against Belarus to be insufficient. Moreover, Belarus’ government responded negatively to the fact that Switzerland joined the sanctions on April 30.
Minsk has additional motivation to keep its tough domestic policy at a time when a political conflict between Brussels and Kiev concerning Yulia Tymoshenko is escalating, when 12 European presidents have boycotted the Yalta summit of Central and East European leaders on 11-12 May, and when a possible boycott of Ukrainian matches within the European Football Championship may occur. Thus the Belarusian regime is showing solidarity with Kiev from afar, which has resulted in the mutual lifting of restrictions in the meat and beer trade.
At the same time, the Belarusian authorities continue to make attempts to revive a dialogue with Western Europe in the roundabout way suggested by the EU – with the intermediary of The Vatican.
On May 7-10 Archbishop Cyril Vasil, Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, Vatican, will come to Minsk. This visit seems to be part of a plan launched personally by President Lukashenko in April.
According to Decree No. 221 of June 23rd, 2017, deadlines for the completion of foreign trade operations have been extended from 90 to 180 days for exports and from 60 to 90 days for imports. Delayed payments entailed a fine up to 2% of the transaction cost for each day of the delay, but could not exceed the total cost of the transaction. Most companies, when working with new counterparties, require a deferred payment for a period of three to six months. Due to the new regulation, violations are likely to reduce in number, so as the fines. Trade enterprises are likely to expand the assortment list due to the supply of new products in small lots, and the assortment list of exported Belarusian goods could expand, too. The new terms for completing foreign trade transactions would enable medium and small companies on the foreign trade market, exporters and importers are likely to grow in number and the geography of export-import operations could expand.