Threat to weaken control of EU border: attempt to lower stakes in next round of dialogue with West
On April 18, a representative of the State Border Committee of Belarus said that because of the sanctions imposed against Belarus, the agency would loosen control over the out-migration, and give priority to inbound migration, in particular on the Belarusian-Polish border.
The threat voiced by the Border Committee is clearly a political order from the country’s leadership. The sanctions had no impact on migration flows through Belarus and did not impose additional burden on the Belarusian border guards.
Special reference to the Belarusian-Polish border, where the control will be loosened in the first place, most likely is a political message to the Polish Foreign Ministry, which was the first one to react to the release of two political prisoners last week and demanded to release the rest.
Finally, border services’ statement reflected the “dissenting opinion” of the Belarusian security forces close to the eldest son of President Viktor Lukashenko. This group inside Belarus is the least interested in resolving the conflict with the EU, as political tension allows them to expand the sphere of their influence, and justifies the use of habitual repressive measures in the public administration.
“Viktor Luakshenko’s Group” embraces the KGB leadership. The latter on April 18 issued a threatening statement about a network operating at the Belarusian-Polish taking illegal immigrants from countries with terrorist activity over to the EU. The KGB statement implies that so far this illegal activity was contained.
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.