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Research Report

Back from the cold?: The EU and Belarus in 2009

Margarita M. Balmaceda
Sabine Fischer
Grzegorz Gromadzki
Andrei Liakhovich
Astrid Sahm
Vitali Silitski
Leonid Zlotnikov
Edited by Sabine Fischer
Copyright Date: Nov. 1, 2009
Pages: 111
OPEN ACCESS
https://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep06960
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 25-36)
    Vitali Silitski

    Change has occurred in Belarus, the so-called last dictatorship in Europe. The Belarus-Russia energy conflict of 2006-2007 was a wake-up call for the ruling elite, including President Lukashenka himself. It made it clear to everyone that at least partial economic reform was required to sustain the old system, which is based on an unreformed Soviet-style economy existing exclusively thanks to generous Russian energy subsidies. The government partially abandoned its paternalistic and anti-market rhetoric, authorised controlled privatisation and liberalisation of private business activities and cut down on the welfare state. As a result, the World Bank proclaimed Belarus to be one...

  2. (pp. 37-48)
    Andrei Liakhovich

    Belarusian society has changed a great deal since Belarus declared independence 18 years ago. There can be no doubt that societal development has reached a post-Soviet stage. Due to what has been called the Belarusian economic miracle, the population is now displaying very different patterns of consumption in comparison with only a few years ago. Interests and behavioural patterns among elites have changed even more.

    At the same time, state structures still play a predominant role in the country. Most people work for state-owned enterprises and, therefore, depend on the state. Consequently, no large-scale public resistance to the political regime...

  3. (pp. 49-64)
    Astrid Sahm

    Controlling the mass media and civil society has been crucial for President Aliaksandr Lukashenka since he was first elected president in 1994. The step-by-step establishment of a strong authoritarian regime has been accompanied by steady economic growth and constant waves of repression, usually intensified during referenda and election campaigns. Because Lukashenka positioned his regime as an anti-Western outpost for Russia in exchange for cheap energy deliveries, he has been able to ignore the demands for democratisation formulated by European organisations like the European Union (EU), the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). As...

  4. (pp. 65-78)
    Leonid Zlotnikov

    For a long time, Belarus has been considered a country with a successfully developing economy, an assessment underpinned by relatively high annual growth rates and the comparatively stable living standard of the majority of the population. Since late 2008, however, the effects of the global economic crisis on the Belarusian economy have become more and more evident. GDP growth has decreased considerably. Industrial production has plummeted as a result of shrinking markets in Belarus and in Russia while Belarusian goods are, at the same time, not competitive in the world market. More and more industrial sectors have ceased being profitable....

  5. (pp. 79-92)
    Margarita M. Balmaceda

    Belarus is an important route for Russian gas exports to Central and Western Europe. In 2007, about 20 percent of Russia’s total gas exports outside the CIS and the Baltic states and about 37 percent of its oil exports to the European Union passed through Belarus.¹ Transit through Belarus offers the shortest land route from Russian gas fields to the main Western European markets. The state of that transit route, as well as of the Belarusian-Russian energy relationship more generally, can affect the European Union through possible disruptions in oil and gas transit, but also through their effects on social...

  6. (pp. 93-104)
    Grzegorz Gromadzki

    Ever since his advent to power in 1994, Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s personality has played a decisive role in shaping Belarusian foreign policy. This policy is characterised by a specific logic, which expresses itself in the president’s frequently seemingly contradictory statements, actions and behaviour. Interest groups inside the Lukashenka regime have played a significant role behind the president. These groups seem to be more important than the members of the government formally in charge, such as the prime minister or foreign minister. For many years, the most influential group were the so-called silaviki led by Viktar Sheiman. Since the summer of 2008,...