Minsk hopes for approval of Lukashenko’s visit to Vatican
At a press conference in Minsk, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said that President Lukashenko’s visit to Vatican was possible and underscored that the Holy See was prepared for the visit. While in Minsk, the Holy See Cardinal met with President Lukashenko, Foreign Minister Makey, and Head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church Metropolitan Pavel. The Belarusian authorities repeat their actions from the ‘thaw’ in Belarus-EU relations in 2008-2010, however the new cycle of normalisation with Brussels might start with a visit to the Vatican without fulfilling the basic EU requirement – release of remaining political prisoners before completing the 2015 presidential campaign. The Belarusian authorities are interested in developing relations with the EU after the 2015 presidential campaign; they will attempt therefore to preserve a moderate level of repression against the opposition.
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.