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 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.