Civil society in Belarus is increasing its influence

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April 22, 2016 18:30

On May 7th, Minsk City Executive Committee refused to enter into a contract for the construction of a recreational centre in the centre of Minsk.

Protests against the compact construction become an important factor in the civil society formation and consolidation in the capital. These developments had non-political nature.

The Minsk City Executive Committee’s non-approval of a construction project to be implemented in a green area in the city centre was a result of protests by about a thousand local residents who sent their appeals to the Prosecutor’s Office and the State Control Committee asking to abandon the project.

This movement’s mobilization potential is fairly large, given its non-political nature. As a rule, such protests are carried out as pickets and collective appeals to the authorities. In particular, one of these appeals - against the residential building construction on the playground in Tsnianskaya Street - was signed by circa three housand people.

Citizens’ protests and the Minsk City Executive Committee’s decision to waive the construction project do not necessarily have a cause-effect relationship. But clearly, Minsk residents’ civil activity is increasing. In particular, in early April, a number of community initiatives, advocating against sporadic commercial development in vaious Minsk districts signed a memorandum of cooperation.

Organizational core of this residents’ movement is non-registered public association “Evroperspektiva”, which was denied registration by the Justice Ministry two times. The association is led by Victor Yanchurevich, a candidate for Parliament’s Deputy in 2012.

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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.

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