President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko speaks at inauguration ceremony

For the future of independent Belarus

President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko speaks at inauguration ceremony

Dear countrymen!

Dear representatives of diplomatic missions and top level guests!

Today, I’m addressing you with special excitement. I’m overwhelmed with pride for our close-knit Belarusian society and for our millions of countrymen — citizens of sovereign Belarus.

During the recent Presidential elections, our people once again demonstrated to the whole world the highest level of political culture: their unity in the face of external challenges, and independence of decisions. Nothing has divided us in the past, and nor does it in the present. I am confident that nothing will divide us in the future.

Numerous observers — national and international — have had the opportunity to witness that the electoral campaign was held calmly, openly and fully in line with Belarusian law. All candidates enjoyed wide possibilities for campaigning. I’m so grateful to you, my dear countrymen, and to everyone who supported me. This is absolutely not my personal success but the victory of the whole nation. This is the victory of the Belarusian people.

I emphasise, without any flattery, that the recent electoral campaign was the first of which all of us have been proud: proud of ourselves and of our people. Belarusians calmly and openly cast their votes and showed who makes decisions in this country. It was a great achievement for Belarusian people. I feel proud to serve this nation.

During these turbulent times, our nation demonstrated its unity and took part in elections. With their votes, people expressed support for the domestic and foreign policy of the past 20 years and more. This policy is not just our heritage. We’ve endured various challenges and have lived in a great country, which was able to dictate its conditions of existence to the whole globe, while ensuring the world balance.

Now, we face different challenges. Sometimes we need to form our foreign and domestic policy alone, though we face obstacles and stumble. We’ve always been honest, never deceiving anyone. We’ve always taken our own path and have been justified in our actions.

Our efforts have not been in vain. We have much to defend and of which to be proud. We’ve jointly established a state enjoying stable development. We’ve constructed accommodation, schools, hospitals, wonderful palaces of culture, sporting arenas, modern roads and other infrastructure sites. We’ve modernised thousands of industrial enterprises, which — I’m convinced — will generate benefits in the coming five years.

In the shortest possible time, we’ve solved the problem of food security, also sewing enough clothing for our people. Belarusian agro-industrial complex goods occupy a major share in generating export revenue. This potential will enable us to ensure Belarus’ development despite global economic problems.

Due to the high profile of this event, I’d be failing in my duty if I refrained from saying that great expectations have been generated. We live in a free society, ‘bombarded’ with ideas, upon which we are invited to ponder. The nation needs a clear strategy and leadership. It’s a path destined to bring allies and otherwise.

Too much is being spoken and written of reform. Structural reform is mentioned but nobody gives details. If someone supports reforms, be honest and say that we need to break down the political system, the state system of Belarus: that we need to chop it into pieces and give away state-owned property. This is the nature of reform. Someone is ready to pay much for these reforms but we need to consider whether they are really necessary.

Fraternal Russia and Ukraine have already implemented such reforms. It’s great that Russians and Ukrainians are present here today. They’ve already tasted such reform and what are the results?

This is how we should respond to those who say that the system we’ve created is wrong. I do consider these proposals, as made by officials to the President.

What have we done wrong? Let’s see. After a child is born, parents have the chance to stay at home with them until the age of three — bringing them up and receiving free medicines. Moreover, if they forget to come to hospital or a children’s polyclinic, doctors will immediately remind them. From your first day of birth, we care for you and your parents. We also care for future mothers. Nowhere else in the world is this quite the same.

We can care for babies weighing just 500g-700g. This year, and in 2013, we didn’t lose a single birthing mother. Sadly, we failed to save one woman in 2014, as doctors realised. No other country in the world boasts such a maternal mortality rate. We are third globally for infant mortality — behind Germany and Sweden, and continue developing alongside them, as leaders.

We’ve established the strongest system of health protection in the world. This is not just my assessment. As a sign of gratitude and appreciation, Belarus was recently visited by a great number of foreign health ministers and medical scientists, who wished to study our experience. We described in detail our procedures at rural health clinics, district hospitals, and district, regional and central clinics. We explained where each person can access assistance.

We’ve equipped our clinical hospitals and centres with the latest equipment. Any medical equipment can be bought; more important are staff, including doctors. We’ve trained the most modern medical personnel. When I visit abroad, I’m always asked if we’ll help to train doctors and engineers. Within the CIS, I’m asked to help train specialists; nowhere else has such a high level of professional technical colleges. I’m asked to help but we cannot accept every foreign student, regardless of the money offered. We lack enough places at our hostels, classrooms and laboratories, as yet. Accordingly, we’re building more, with a view to creating more places, knowing that we’ll receive fees. Once people have lived and studied here, they gain an affinity for our ideas and our ideology, promoting the world in which we live.

We often hear of reform. What should we do? Ok, let’s reform our health protection system — breaking it. If you’re ready and want it, it can be done. I’ve already said, without exaggeration, that I’m ready to conduct reform, but not at the expense of our neighbours. Not long ago, sociological polls showed that people were in favour of reform. However, on having reform explained to them, they were not so sure: increased retirement age, less subsidised medicine and education, and so on. If you’re ready, we can move to this system within six months. It is possible. However, here, in this hall, we have the former Ukrainian president. He’ll tell you how reforms of recent years have been conducted in Ukraine and what state his country’s health care system is in. It’s a subject close to my heart. With this in mind, let’s learn from others’ mistakes.

Once a child goes to kindergarten, there’s a cost involved. Do you want to pay for this? You pay so little at present, as almost everything is financed from the state budget. After kindergarten, children move on to school, and receive free meals there. The idea was introduced during the hard times of the Chernobyl disaster, when we had nothing to eat. At that time, I visited Gomel Region, where I saw that many families lacked enough food. We chose to feed children at kindergarten — offering them good dinners, to ensure their health. Since then, we’ve provided all schoolchildren with dinners.

After finishing nine years at school, a teenager has the right to decide where to continue his education: at a higher education establishment or at a technical college — to train in a specialty. Importantly, after graduating from university or college, the state guarantees each person’s first job. An alumnus has no need to search for employment, which can be a challenge. The state provides them with their first work place. In this way, people gain experience. Should we do away with this? What aspects of this system need reforming?

We also hear that the spheres of agriculture and industry should introduce private ownership. We may be the last country left in the world yet to implement widespread private ownership. We can split land, distributing it among farmers, of which we have just over 3,000 at any one time, with some going and others starting up.

At present, it’s a challenge to find a talented head for a major company. Do you wish to distribute land between these poor fellows — for them to dig it with shovels? Germans come to us and express envy. Asking them to explain, they reply that they would love to enjoy large parcels of land: of 10-20,000 hectares. They also admit that they would have collapsed long ago were it not for state support.

At present, France and Germany lack this support. There have been strikes among villagers. It’s never been and never will be easy to work the land — regardless of your location in the world. We should all understand that it’s impossible to generate wealth from farming; all those starting up should understand this.

Tell me, what should we change in the field of agriculture? We’ve been struggling for twenty years. What should we reform? We’ve been criticised for preserving our collective farms. Being frightened, we renamed them as major co-operatives, during the time of Mr. Sidorsky’s prime ministership. However, they worked collectively in the past and continue working in the same manner today.

Let’s turn to industry now. We only need those industrial enterprises which work well today and will continue to do so tomorrow. No one will pay huge money for them. We’ve proposed a price for our most promising company: Belaruskali. Its value is $32bln, as specialists agree. Has anyone bought a single share in it for this price? No. I’ve stated in public that we were offered a bribe of several billions of dollars for us to lower the price to $15-16bln. If I’d accepted, what would have I told people? If you desire this kind of privatisation, then conduct it without me. I won’t share out the legacy accumulated by the Belarusian nation over centuries. This has always ended with tragedy for the Slavonic people: a revolution or a civil war (or both).

To all those ‘hot heads’ and reform promoters who press me to conduct reform, saying that I have enough public support, I’ve already replied: let’s first start with those who suggest this and will then see what to do further. However, they don’t like this idea, suggesting making everything at the expense of the neighbour, at the expense of the nation. My answer is ‘no’, at least for the coming five years of my presidency.

I’ll try to develop this idea further in my State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian people, explaining the political and state order — including economic — proposed to us 20-25 years ago. In taking that path, we could have formed a group of wealthy people, with just 5-7 percent of the country’s population owning state wealth. The remainder would be poor.

As the first president of the country, I don’t wish anyone to blame me, saying that I’ve behaved in such a way towards the state. I know poverty and hunger. I know of people who look at you with their mouths open and tears in their eyes. Remember this. I primarily address those who enjoy power in this country.

Peace and social justice are mutually dependent.

People can take any path; they enjoy favourable conditions for work and education, allowing them to reach their potential and become true masters in their profession. This is our greatest achievement. We’ve spent so much blood, sweat and health to create this.

This gives us a feeling of security and confidence in the future. Let those who’ve failed to vote for the present course enjoy this confidence as well. The opposite opinion — if dictated by sincere love for the Motherland — will always be heard. In turn, all reasonable ideas will be used and realised.

Each person in our country enjoys the protection of the law and, accordingly, of the President. This is an unshakeable principle. Only through this  we can achieve consolidation in society, promoting creativity. We’ll keep to this approach in the future.

I`ve told you about children, and now I’ll speak about old people. You know our attitude and you know it very well. They are the stronghold of our country: without them, our country would not exist.

You know what previously happened in the villages, especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when old people (there were more than a thousand) were simply lost in villages and, even, in cities.

In the cities, we somehow supported them, and created a system. In the villages, unclaimed district hospitals were repurposed as hospitals of nursing care. We gathered all the ‘abandoned’ old people, so that no one remained unaccounted for. No one! All those who had been left by their children, or who lacked children, were taken into these hospitals of nursing care for wintertime. Some were aged 80 or more, and some were unwell.

They spend half of their pension on clothes, and on food. Many try to give us all their pension but I’ve strictly forbidden this. We only ask for half of their pension to support them, with the state paying the other half. Old people shouldn’t be forgotten by the state. These old people, being only 10km from their homes, can return there for the summer. They live longer as a result. It’s very difficult for them to be away from their homes; they would pine over time.

We’ve chosen to follow the humane way, supporting old people. Do you want to change this system? Which capitalist or rich bourgeois person, forgive me for these classical expressions, will support these old people and children at his own expense? Only the state will do so!

The state can do so and be proud, taking care of children and old people. Without such actions, there is no state. Nobody needs another kind of state than this. This path is unshakable. Simple humanity is the way of a social state. We cannot turn away from this path, having created it. Seeing difficulties, we cannot change our minds, letting it fall apart. It wouldn’t be wise. A wise nation would never make such reforms.

Belarus has a handful of politicians who wish to stir up internal discord but even their own supporters reject their ideology of change. The majority reject their plans.

Our recent elections once again proved to various forces, including those outside of our country, that the coercive conquest of Belarus via `colour revolutions` and `squares` has failed! This will never happen.

In our quiet and safe country, we should solve major economic problems, taking solutions to a higher level. The economy of the coming five years is changing dramatically, with much technological, administrative and innovative modernisation.

The efficient management of the economy should be our main priority. At the same time, we require unconditional preservation of jobs and payment of worthy salaries.

Our purpose, not in word but in deed, is to build an innovative economy: a knowledge-driven economy. In the future, our country aims to be numbered among the most developed states. We’ll do everything possible to make Belarus one of the most attractive places for investment.

Through co-operation with business circles in leading countries, and co-operative ties with our traditional partners, we intend to keep increasing our exports. At the same time, we’ll seek out new markets. In recent years, we’ve gained the most serious experience in this respect.

A highly-developed economy will guarantee the independence of Belarus.

We are building, as I note once again, a state for the people. Improving people’s quality of life will remain a priority, as will introducing the best in education, public health and social protection.

Systems of public health services and education will be preserved, whatever it takes. Without these, we’d lack knowledge, a knowledge-driven economy, and citizens.

As ever, special attention will be given to strengthening the institution of the family: supporting parents with many children, and offering loans for housing construction. Culture, sports, science and youth programmes will receive new impulse for development.

Our country is one of the few truly stable corners of the world. In quickly developing transport-logistic infrastructure, Belarus has become an essential transit corridor. A huge stream of goods moves through our country, and it will only rise.

Belarus is a peaceful and benevolent country without any fantastic ambitions. We have one simple and clear desire: to build a quiet and happy life in our own house, in co-operation and commonwealth with all neighbours.

We’ve never brought problems to our neighbours. We were always friendly, going openheartedly and with bread rather than a stone. It will continue to be so. We’ll continue to create the Union State with brotherly Russia, if it wants us to do so. We’ll develop close interaction with partners within the limits of the Eurasian Economic Union, while firmly defending our own interests. Belarus will continue to be an active player in the post-Soviet territory. This not only guarantees our well-being, but protects against threats.

Peace and order is of supreme value to us. There can be nothing higher. If there is disorder, conflict or war, then people do not need bread, clothes, salaries, enterprises or reforms. Peace and order are vital. Leonid Kuchma can say more. We, I once again underline, will spare nothing to preserve peace and safety in our land. We’ll take steps to increase the efficiency of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO).

Our relations with our strategic partner, great China, are developing quickly. I thank my close friend, Xi Jinping, and the special delegation he sent to this inauguration. We spent three days together: working, debating and talking. I ask you to convey my warmest wishes to Xi Jinping for his support of the Belarusian people.

We are developing our ties with states across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

And we are seeing results.

Belarus is open for co-operation as equals, in rights and friendship, with countries of the West, the USA and the European Union, if they wish it. There are no obstacles to us turning the page on the past and starting modern relations from scratch.

We’re ready to do so and count on the same readiness from our western partners. It’s great that good prospects have appeared in this direction recently. Meanwhile, some people, having heard or having seen our negotiations with representatives of the United States of America or the European Union, are screaming all the way to Vladivostok that I’m changing policy.

As soon as people see our fraternal, warm feelings towards brotherly Russia, our native Ukraine, and other post-Soviet republics, we hear complaints from the West. Do not make us choose!

Let us live calmly on this piece of land. We’ll ensure your interests: both in the East and the West. Belarus will do all that you want but don’t prompt us to choose between Russia and the West.

We aren’t changing our policy. We want to live on our land, ensuring the vital interests of Belarusians here, on this piece of land. Please, note, we don’t want anything more. We don’t have vital interests in neighbouring states. We want a quiet and peaceful life.

When we receive hints from the West to keep away from Russia, I always say that we cannot distance ourselves from Russia, from Ukraine, or Kazakhstan, because we were born one family. God predetermined this. How can this be broken? Yes, we have our own point of view. Yes, we have our own interests, as we’ve shown more than once. However, we have the same roots. I always say so.

I came to power in the mid-1990s with this ideology. How can I renounce it? No one should push us against the West from the East. We’ll continue normalising our relations with the West, because they are our neighbours too and we have economic interests there. We export 42 percent of our products to Russia, and over 50 percent to the EU. How can we look aside? And why, during this difficult time, would we push away from a multipronged foreign policy?

We are the only corridor left through which the East and the West can freely move and co-operate. This is the answer I give to those who try to make us enemies of Russia, and friends of the West. It may be our curse or our destiny; I don’t know. God has decided our place, at the centre of Europe, at the crossroads of all roads. This road is not always safe. It’s often ‘hot’. We need to be wise politicians to avoid being burnt, or ‘boiled and eaten’.

We’ll continue our peaceful foreign policy, as we know the value of Russia for us. We know what the West means for us also, and will proceed from our own interests or those of our neighbours.

The unity and purposefulness of our people, their openness and friendliness, and the clear course held by the administration of the country, has induced the West to look at Belarus from another angle.

They have seen us as a decent partner.

I once again note that we welcome movement in this direction. We’ve always said that attempts to isolate Belarus, and other countries, will bring deadlock: a situation in which all lose.

It’s easy to support sanctions, but very difficult to remove them and to return to normality. We don’t need to back ourselves into a corner. The recent history of Belarus has shown this.

Our country is the safest and most reliable connecting Europe and Asia. These two civilisations will come closer, because there are no alternatives to integration processes. Opposition between the West and the East would only escalate conflict, humanitarian catastrophes, a sharp fall in the standard of living and general degradation.

Regarding neighbouring Ukraine, some have vital interests there. However, innocent people who’ve not been able to leave Donbass are suffering, while Leonid Kuchma, in Minsk, is applying every effort to bring peace there. What have old people and children done wrong? If people want to shoot others, why don’t they go to a field and ‘shoot’ at each other there. Leave alone those who wish to live peacefully.

Our policy was defined at our Independence Palace, and at our Palace of Peace. All now understand that Belarusians are tolerant. We are an open nation, promoting mutual understanding and co-operation across the continent. We aim to link states and people. I see this as one of my major duties as President. If I achieve this task, it will bear rich fruits: for Belarus, and for our neighbours and other countries.

We all need to appreciate what’s important and act to realise it: our future is in our hands. We must solve problems from the inside, instead of looking ‘outside’. Only persistent work, common sense and wisdom will promote our development.

Belarusians, please don’t take offence at my calling some of you lazy. I’ll continue to seriously push you. It’s not always the authorities at fault, with citizens being always in the right. Before you judge others, look at yourself. Have you done everything in your power to ensure the happiness and success of yourself, your family, your relatives, friends, fellow countrymen and the state? Probably not.

Let us start by reforming ourselves. If we begin by looking at ourselves, we’ll stop talking about reform and will simply live well. We’ll avoid demolishing existing political and economic systems.

The ancients said: ‘When people are united, they are invincible’.

Our history and experience obliges us to revere consent in society. We must be united: a single body of Belarusians.

We open up a new page in the history of Belarus. It will be very substantive and interesting. In order to successfully move further we’ll need to use our reserves. We need to show our self-possession, selflessness, determination and talent. In one word, we need to show our best qualities and that inner spiritual core due to which our nation came out of any situations as a victor, because it always believed in its powers and harnessed them.

Dear friends, I’d like to repeat again that, of course, we all want to live well. To live normally is a normal desire, a normal requirement of people towards authorities. Moreover, we all want to live very well. However, I’d like to stress again that everything depends on us. If we work better we will live better. This is a simple formula which no one was able to disprove.

Dear friends!

Of course, I’m an ordinary man, and you understand this well. I haven’t ever been involved in self-promotion, and there hasn’t ever been some ‘showing off’. If I work somewhere during subbotnik [a day of unpaid labour] I take a shovel and work in front of your eyes. If I play sometimes on football or ice hockey field I do this as I can. No one ‘makes’ me there. This is my ironclad rule.

If one begins self-promotion the nation would easily see who you are and this will bring only harm. I’m an ordinary person, so, like you, I can make mistakes. However, I always set an ironclad task in front of me — not to allow systematic mistakes. We haven’t allowed them with you. There were different periods. Probably, we’ve made wrong steps somewhere but time will pass and history will assess and the nation will assess. Nevertheless, in my opinion, we haven’t allowed mistakes. Meanwhile, you should remember one thing (I know that the overwhelming majority here, if not everyone, are my supporters): I won’t ever betray you! As a person I’m not able to betray. I believe that it’s better to be killed on the battlefield than to betray one’s own nation, one’s own ideas and everything one has promised. I’d like to declare from this high tribune: this hasn’t happened in the twenty years of my service to you and our people and our state, and this won’t ever happen.

The last thing is that I’ve always protected and will continue protecting you and your children!

Yes, I’m strict, and will be demanding of the nation, as I’ve always said. If I were not, we wouldn’t withstand this disorder. We’d be broken into pieces and dispersed, as happened in the mid-1990s, when Western Belarus was supposed to ‘go there’, and Eastern Belarus ‘here’; Polesie was supposed to become the Independent Polesskaya Republic.

If anyone has forgotten this, just dip into the mid-1990s and recall that, at that time, we managed to stop the trend within a month by electing a president.

I’ve fulfilled my major obligation to our Belarusian nation. If you lack ‘authority’ and need the protection of the state, and of the President, I’m always at your disposal.

I understand that certain people voted for me taking into account my future plans and actions. This is a natural thing, especially during the Presidential elections. I am saying all this in case someone doubts that the right person was elected. You’ve made the right decision. This is not because I’m an exceptional person, or because I’m a man with exceptional wits. There’re enough people in this hall who are able to become presidents of our country. It’s because we do not owe anything to anyone.

We didn’t launder money during the pre-election campaign; we managed to spend little for the organisation of the elections. I did not give any promises in the East or in the West, in America or in Africa. We’ve held these elections independently, like we have been doing for these more than twenty years. It’s the greatest achievement when the President wins thanks to the people, when the people elect him, when money does not play any role and billions are not injected in the election campaign, with money being laundered and put into pockets.

This is the greatest foundation for us to do what we have to do for our nation. When the next presidential election comes, please, look whose money and people are behind a candidate. I have neither strangers nor money in my team. I rely on you, the Belarusian people. And I am ready to serve you as long as the nation trusts me, till the last breath.

Thank you!

Minsk. Independence Palace

November 6th, 2015

Guests of President Alexander Lukashenko’s inauguration ceremony speak:

Sergei Lebedev, the Chairman of the CIS Executive Committee — CIS Executive Secretary:

Inauguration is an interim stage in Belarus’ steady development. This is a continuation of consistent policy of your country and, of course, of your President, aiming to develop and to create conditions for people’s better life, alongside education and culture. We are all witnesses to positive changes in the life of Belarus. We see that despite economic difficulties on a global scale and some actions against Belarus, the country is developing. During the recent elections the Belarusian nation has clearly supported to continue this course, by giving credence to Alexander Lukashenko.

Andrea Wiktorin, Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus:

I hope that Belarus and the European Union will continue developing their relations across those areas in which they take interest, and will apply joint effort for this. Actually, Belarus and the EU do have common interests which are expressed in joint projects. These deal with interaction in the sphere of environment protection, as well as in other areas. Previously I’ve already worked in Belarus, from 2000-2003, and I wished to return to you. I’m happy that I’m here. I enjoy watching your development and I like your people. I’m greatly impressed how Minsk has changed over the time of my absence. I hope I will have time to see the whole country.

Leonid Kuchma, ex-President of Ukraine:

Each time I arrive in Minsk, it is with great pleasure. During my presidency, I often visited Minsk, so can compare. Minsk, and your country as a whole, has significantly improved; you should be proud. I see cleanliness and order in your cities and villages, well-cared-for fields, and modern architecture, and my soul simply rejoices.

I’d like to wish the same stability to Ukraine and to all countries and nations. The Ukrainians are now walking a path one wouldn’t wish for anyone. According to the UN data, during this time of military conflict, more than 8,000 people have been killed in the country. In reality, this figure is probably greater.

I’m pleased that the inauguration ceremony is being held in such a symbolical place, since the foundations of stability, which outlined in Ukraine with the pull-out of heavy armament, have been laid in the Independence Palace during the ‘Normandy Four’ negotiations.

Cui Qiming, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China to Belarus:

I think that with President Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election a new page will be opened in our relations and they will be developing even quicker. China and Belarus are very good friends and kind trustworthy partners. You learn something from us while we can also borrow something useful from you. This is correct. Our nations are connected by strong friendship. For more than twenty years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, the Belarusian-Chinese co-operation has been developing steadily and dynamically, on the principles of mutual respect. Our relationships have received a new impetus after the exchange of top level visits this year. The leaders of the two states have reached important agreements aimed at further strengthening of the comprehensive strategic partnership. We’re ready to move further in this direction.

Yergali Bulegenov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Kazakhstan to Belarus:

Our countries have traditionally boasted the relations of strategic partnership: complete understanding and kind trustworthy relations between the presidents. We step forward with many integration initiatives, so the plans for the future are great. Of course, the situation isn’t easy and the world is suffering from the crisis. However, all things must pass, I’m an optimist in this respect.

By 2025, all issues, which should be settled for full opening of our borders for goods and labour force, will be left in the past. The Eurasian Economic Union will become an association, having a solid weight. It already has its political weight today when many countries try to establish close relations with the EAEU. Meanwhile, when the Eurasian Economic Union becomes operational at full strength, it will turn into one of the most powerful inter-state associations on the planet.

Photo by BELTA
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