Law enforcement agencies reform: MIA shrinking competencies
On August 18th, Presidential Decree No 360 took effect, which envisages increased powers for the Financial Investigations Department of Belarus’ State Control Committee.
Growing economic and political risks force the ruling group to concentrate the state’s power management in the most loyal and controlled agencies. Newly created security agencies which are close to the President have been empowered with greater authority, while the country’s oldest law enforcement agency, the Interior Ministry, is gradually losing its powers.
The Decree No 360 has empowered the SCC FID (Belarus’ Financial Police) with the right to stop or suspend the operations of enterprises if their activities (products, services) pose a threat to national security, or the life and health of the population and the environment (‘national security’ criteria added).
Thus, the FID has received a powerful tool to control Belarusian and foreign businesses operating in Belarus. “National security” provision allows maximizing the use of sanctions.
Empowering the FDI (established in 2001) is a logical development in the law enforcement agencies reform, the most visible outcome of which is consistently stripping the Interior Ministry of its powers. During the past two years the MIA functions have consistently narrowed, while the authority of new agencies under President Lukashenko’s control has increased, in particular, in the area of economic crimes.
In 2011, the Investigative Committee was founded (monopolized anti-corruption investigation), and in 2013, the State Committee for Forensic Examinations was set up (monopolized forensic expertise). In addition, President Lukashenko has repeatedly spoken about the Main Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and Corruption of the Interior Ministry reform. As a result, the MIA is gradually being converted into an agency that mainly protects public order and is losing jurisdiction over the fight against corruption and economic crimes.
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.