Unions of Poles to remain an issue in Belarusian-Polish relations
Last week, Marshal of the Polish Senate Stanislaw Karczewski visited Belarus. During the visit, Karczewski met with the president, the heads of both parliamentary chambers, and representatives of the opposition and civil society. During his visit, the Council of the Republic ratified the bilateral agreement on cooperation in education. The existence of two Unions of Poles in Belarus was a special discussion issue during Karczewski’s meetings with the Belarusian public officials. After official meetings, Karczewki expressed cautious hope for a rapprochement between the official Union of Poles supported by the authorities and the informal Union of Poles. However, this issue is unlikely to be resolved in the near future, and the status of the non-official Union of Poles will remain a topic for negotiations for quite some 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.