The Crisis in Bilateral Relations is Evident
International conference "Belarus-Russia: castling or reboot?" became one of the main events of this week. The conference was held in Minsk and has caused interest among representatives of civil society, mass-media and diplomats. The initiator of the conference, chairman of the National Committee of the United Democratic Forces Anatoly Lebedko answered our questions.
- Are the organizers of the conference satisfied with its results?
- I will not hide, we are satisfied. Only in the margins, without a camera you can hear objective opinions of the participants. The only serious claim was that not everyone could take part in this event.
- What are the reasons of such interest?
- About 120 people participated in the conference and we planned 80 persons. I can explain such interest by several factors. First, the topic of the conference was very important. Secondly, it is the high level of the discussion, which was provided by speakers and participants of the conference. Third, there is ozone hole in the relations between civil society of Russia and Belarus. It should be also reminded that Medvedev and Lukashenko met the same day.
- Does such format of the conference have any future?
- It was decided to hold annual conference on the issues of bilateral relations in August. I have no doubt that the conference will attract interest of politicians, experts and representatives of nongovernmental organizations.
- Did you invite the representatives of Russia’s government agencies?
- Until recently, the official Moscow distanced from any contacts with the Belarusian opposition and focused only on Lukashenko. On the other hand, three Russian politicians, who arrived in Minsk, recently met with the President of the United States. This fact proves that they are not last people in Russia. I think that Barack Obama will not hold the dialogue with the first comer.
- Not all Belarusian politicians support your initiative to hold such conference in Minsk. What can you say to your critics?
- Some politicians ignore the theme of Belarusian-Russian relations. Let’s say diplomatically, such politicians are in the minority. But for the absolute majority of people in Belarus this topic is important. At a rough estimate, half a million of our citizens go to work to Russia, at least half of the Belarusian producers dependent on Russia’s market. We can not ignore these facts.
In January - April 2009 export of Belarusian goods in Russia amounted to $ 1.89 billion. This is 47, 6% less than the same period last year. Total merchandise exports decreased by 48, 6%. The whole country’s imports of goods fell by 32.9%. Of course we can pretend that these problems do not exist, but will the people, who feel the burden of these problems, understand us? I think the answer is obvious.
- Is there any chance that the authorities will hear the opinion of the participants of the conference?
- The crisis in bilateral relations is evident not only for the politicians, but for the average citizens of Belarus and Russia. It is necessary to find other forms of interaction and mechanisms of decision-making. We can not ignore public opinion and the position of experts. And we are going to address not only to the authorities, but also to public opinion. For example, to publish a brochure with the materials of the conference and send it to libraries and research centers.
- You initiated preparation of the document defining the vision of relations between Belarus and the European Union, Russia and the United States. Can we say that the conference is one of the instruments of this process?
- The Conference gave a rich material for analyzing the current relations between Belarus and Russia and formulated recommendations, proposals that can be used during preparation of such document. The same work we will do in the relations of Belarus with the EU and the U.S.