Belarusian SMEs to continue resistance until compromise is reached
On February 15th, private entrepreneurs and opposition leaders held a joint action in Minsk, which gathered scores of people and was the largest in the past year. The action took place on the October Square and was attended by about a thousand people. The organizers and participants expressed their intention to hold such actions every Monday, until the authorities agree to concessions. Meanwhile, the rally on February 22nd is unlikely to be as successful as one on February 15th. Firstly, because Minsk SMEs and SMEs in the regions are not equally interested in the outcome of negotiations with the government - regional SMEs would be more affected by the intransigence of the government. Secondly, because sharp political demands put forward by the opposition during the action are off-putting for SMEs. SMEs’ future protests are likely to shift to regional and district centres and are likely to continue until a compromise with the government is reached.
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.