Minsk supports Chisinau’s European integration
Official Minsk is supportive of Moldova’s European integration as it would create more opportunities for promoting Belarus’ interests on the European market. Meanwhile, Belarus is gaining economic benefits from the pressure on Chisinau created by the Kremlin’s sanctions by re-exporting processed Moldovan products to the Russian market. In addition, the Belarusian authorities hope that by supporting Moldova’s rapprochement with the EU, they will improve their relations with Brussels.
In Chisinau, after talks with his Moldovan counterpart Nikolai Timofti, President Lukashenko called for the situation regarding the EU-Moldova Association Agreement not to be dramatised.
During his visit to Moldova, President Lukashenko spoke in favour of Moldova signing the Association Agreement with the EU, saying that, “we will not make a song and dance about this and will not create any impassable obstacles in this regard”
The Belarusian authorities count on Chisinau’s support in promoting their economic interests on the European market. They are considering entering the European market by establishing Belarus’ assembly plants in Moldova. In fact, Moldova has already been implementing such projects – Belarus assembles her agricultural equipment and trolley-buses there and has plans to launch an assembly line for Belarusian busses. In particular, President Lukashenko underscored, “For example, we’ll localise the co-production of tractors and agricultural machinery as required by the European Union; i.e. Moldova will produce some parts, [the final product] will be certified and sold to the EU as our joint product; and we’ll divide profits as usual”.
President Lukashenko visited Moldova amid the Kremlin’s sanctions pressure on Chisinau. Russia restricted imports of fresh fruits, canned vegetables and meat from Moldova after Chisinau ratified the Moldova-EU Association Agreement in July 2014. As of September 2013, the Kremlin suspended wine deliveries from Moldova to Russia. Interestingly, Russia is the main consumer of Moldovan fruits, which make up 80% of the total fruit exports to Russia.
Following Russia’s sanctions, Belarus has increased her imports of fruits. In August 2014, she imported 24 times more apples and six times more plums from Moldova. Experts do not exclude that these products could later have been re-exported to Russia from Belarus labelled as grown in Belarus.
That said, President Lukashenko still made some comments following the Kremlin’s line, but modified his tone, “we do not need more tension or dividing lines in Eurasia. We support integration within integration and in the longer term, the common economic space – from Lisbon to Vladivostok”.
All in all, Minsk aspires to gain some economic benefits from the confrontation between Russia and post-Soviet states reproaching the EU by processing products from the sanctions list and re-exporting them to the Russian market.
The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.
In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.
The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.
There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.
That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.