Statkevich’s initiative has attracted regional party activists
Quoting formal grounds, the Belarusian authorities have refused to provide facilities to the organizers of the Belarusian National Congress to hold the event. The Congress initiators therefore have swiftly changed the format of the event and will hold an unauthorized street action instead, demanding government guarantees to ensure the right to peaceful assembly. According to one of the organizers, former presidential candidate Nikolai Statkevich, 500 delegates have been elected for the Congress. Most of the participants are likely to be party activists from the regions. The opposition parties were not excited about the Statkevich’s initiative and refused to participate in the Congress. However, they did not prohibit their regional activists to participate in the meetings with the Congress initiators. After the unauthorized event, political parties and ordinary party activists in the regions are likely to reduce their interest in the Congress.
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.