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BELARUS


  

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 17,493 14,304 12,200 76
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,590 1,360 1,290 122
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Belarus



Update No: 317 - (30/05/07)

The West and that part of the world under its spell have made a pariah of Belarus and its dictatorship. Its top 50 people in charge are person non grata in the EU and the US.

The US Department of State has ranked Belarus among 13 "countries with continually poor records on press freedom." 

The other 12 countries are Burma, Eritrea, North Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Cuba, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Syria, China, and Zimbabwe. 

According to the State Department, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Pakistan, Russia, the Philippines, Egypt, and Lebanon are "countries with deteriorating conditions for press freedom." 

"As part of President George W. Bush's Freedom Agenda, the United States views freedom of the press as a key component of democracy," the State Department notes. It reports that "over 110 journalists and media workers were killed in 2006, making it the bloodiest year on record for journalism." 

Human Rights Groups Worldwide Call on UN Members to Reject Belarus' Candidacy
Belarus' record on human rights makes the country a supremely unfit candidate for the United Nations Human Rights Council, a coalition of more than 40 national and international human rights groups said today.

These organizations, based in countries ranging from Cameroon to Uzbekistan, called on UN General Assembly members not to vote Belarus onto the Council, which is the UN's top human rights body. The elections to the Council, which was created last year as part of UN reforms, will take place on May 17. 

"Belarus has an appalling human rights record," said Peggy Hicks, global advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Belarus' election to the top UN human rights body would undermine the Council's ability to uphold human rights standards worldwide." 

Under the resolution establishing the Geneva-based Council, members must "uphold the highest standards" of human rights and "fully cooperate" with the Human Rights Council. Belarus has done neither. 

Under President Alexander Lukashenka, Belarus has one of the worst human rights records in Europe. The Council of Europe has rejected Belarus' candidacy for membership because of its government's poor record on human rights and democracy. 

In December, the UN General Assembly expressed deep concern with Belarus' human rights record and failure to cooperate with the Council, and it insisted on the need for change. Since then, the Belarusian authorities have done nothing to address these concerns. 

Instead, the Belarusian government severely restricts the activities of human rights groups and has systematically moved to close them and opposition parties. Peaceful protesters are violently dispersed and arrested, and opposition leaders are jailed. The Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the only remaining registered human rights organization, faces politically-motivated charges of tax evasion. 

The UN expert charged by the Human Rights Council with monitoring the human rights situation in Belarus, Adrian Severin, has been blocked from performing his mandate by Lukashenka's government. Severin, who has not been allowed to visit the country since he was appointed in 2004, noted the "absolute refusal to cooperate on the part of the Government of Belarus." 

"The Human Rights Council appointed a monitor on Belarus, and the government's refusal to allow him to visit the country should alone disqualify it from Council membership," said Hicks. 

As part of its candidacy, Belarus claimed that it cooperates with UN human rights mechanisms and pledges "to continue to engage constructively" with them. Belarus also asserted that it is "committed to fulfilling its international commitments" under human rights conventions. 

"If Belarus were truly committed to fulfilling its human rights obligations, it would end its severe persecution of opposition members and human rights groups," said Hicks. "Belarus' shameless record on human rights outweighs its hollow rhetoric, and UN members should reject its candidacy." 

A joint letter from Human Rights Watch and more than 40 other local and international human rights groups called on governments to ensure that the candidacy of Belarus, which is running as a member of the East European group, is rejected. No country can be elected unless an absolute majority (or 97 members) of the UN General Assembly writes in the name of the candidate on a ballot.

Milinkevich takes part in special meeting of Lithuanian, Polish MPs
The opposition in Belarus can count on the staunch support of its neighbours. The Poles and Lithuanians are especially supportive for good historical reasons.

For instance, Belarusian opposition politician Alyaksandr Milinkevich took part in a special meeting of Lithuanian and Polish MPs held in Warsaw on the anniversary of the Constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that was signed on May 3, 1791. Also in attendance were Czech, Estonian, German, Hungarian and Latvian MPs and members of the European Parliament. 

"For the Belarusians, the May 3 Constitution is part of the joint legacy of our peoples," the press office of the former presidential candidate quoted him as saying at the meeting. "The citizens ruled over the state in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, not the state ruled over the citizens. The present-day Belarusian authorities want to erase the memory about Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth traditions. Soviet textbooks are back to schools, Belarusian-medium instruction is not allowed and architectural and cultural monuments are being destroyed." 

Mr. Milinkevich said that the Belarusians wanted their country to be free, democratic and independent and expressed confidence that the country would become such one day. 

The May 3 Constitution was signed amid attempts at reform of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. But the attempts came too late and the country was later partitioned in three stages. 

In Warsaw, Mr. Milinkevich met with European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pottering, Polish leader Lech Kaczynski, as well as with the Polish parliamentary speakers and the foreign and culture ministers.

Leaders of Belarus, Azerbaijan sign Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation
Belarus is turning to other FSU states that are not so fussy about such matters as human rights. Its relations with Russia are none too good, as Moscow is insisting on market prices for energy. Still, there is Azerbaijan.

President Alexander Lukashenka and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, signed an interstate Treaty on Friendship and Cooperation in Baku on May 2. 

According to Belarus' official information sources, the Treaty confirms the parties' intention to ensure favourable conditions for the development of mutually beneficial economic cooperation and take measures to improve the system of trade and economic relations. The Treaty says that Belarus and Azerbaijan are ready to continue their efforts to create favourable economic, financial and legal conditions for business activities of companies and individuals of the two countries. 

The governments also intend to develop cooperation in the transport and telecommunications spheres, within the framework of the United Nations and other international organizations, between the national legislatures, governmental and non-governmental organizations, and between the bodies of local government and self-government. 

In addition, the parties confirm their intention to consistently develop partnership in the field of security on bilateral and multilateral bases, and make an active effort to strengthen peace. "We're not going to be friends against anyone," Lukashenka was quoted as saying at his meeting with the Azerbaijani president. "We're ready for others to join other projects." 

The Belarusian leader noted that the two nations have started carrying out many projects, which he added some "evil-wishers" described as propaganda moves. According to him, Belarus and Azerbaijan have made good progress in cooperation since Mr. Aliyev visited Minsk in October 2006. 

The president of Azerbaijan also noted the dynamic development of relations between the two countries. He said that the agenda of the Belarusian-Azerbaijani talks at the highest level included cooperation in the political and economic spheres and within the framework of international organizations. He stressed that he hoped for fruitful relations in all areas. "Our countries and economies complement each other," he said. "We expect this visit of the president of Belarus to give an impetus to the development of contacts in various spheres." 

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ENERGY

Beltransgaz amends charter setting up JV with Gazprom

An extraordinary shareholder meeting of Beltransgaz oil shipping company on May 4th approved amendments to the company's charter required for the establishment of a JV with Gazprom, Interfax News Agency reported.
"Shareholders approved amendments that are necessary for the operation of the new company involving Gazprom. All the amendments were agreed with Gazprom," a Beltransgaz spokesman said. In addition the meeting approved amendments common to all Belarusian companies given the enforcement of the law on economic entities. At the end of December 2006 the Belarusian government and Gazprom agreed on the terms for the acquisition by the Russian side of 50 per cent of Beltransgaz (now fully owned by the state) in 2007-2010, with the accepted market evaluation of the company at US$ five billion.

Aliyev sees oil shipments to Belarus via Odessa-Brody

Azerbaijani President, Ilkham Aliyev, has said he fully supports Belarus's plans to launch oil production projects in Azerbaijan for its domestic market. "There is a political decision on cooperation in the oil and gas sector," the president said at a press conference in Baku, New Europe reported.
Asked about prospects for developing an energy partnership with Belarus, he said that a number of projects existed to diversify energy exports. The projects in particular include the possibility of shipping Azeri oil to Belarus through the Odessa-Brody pipeline. "We gave our political consent to this," Aliyev said. Azerbaijan is interested in increasing its exports of oil, because it is producing more oil, the president said, adding that the country will become one of the largest oil exporters with 50 million tonnes next year. Aliyev directly links Azerbaijan's economic interest with the political agreements reached with authoritarian Belarus President Alexander Lukashenka. 

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