President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko: ‘I believe politics should be sincere’
[b]“I see today’s talk as absolutely sincere and all-embracing — both from the point of view of its themes and the geography of questions,” Alexander Lukashenko asserted at his latest press conference. The President’s meeting with the media took place at the National Library, on New Year’s Eve.[/b]Mr. Lukashenko radically disagrees with the idea that ‘politics is a dirty business’. “I believe that politics should be sincere and fair,” he stressed. His words certainly inspired trust among about 250 journalists. These included reporters from central and regional, state-run and private media, all of whom had the opportunity to address the Belarusian President directly. Some were present at the hall, while others from regional studios used a live TV bridge.
Mr. Lukashenko radically disagrees with the idea that ‘politics is a dirty business’. “I believe that politics should be sincere and fair,” he stressed. His words certainly inspired trust among about 250 journalists. These included reporters from central and regional, state-run and private media, all of whom had the opportunity to address the Belarusian President directly. Some were present at the hall, while others from regional studios used a live TV bridge.
The President was asked around four dozen questions and even more could have been asked if Mr. Lukashenko hadn’t expressed his views on some basic topics before the interviews began. In his forecast for the near future, the President emphasised the urgent need to realise all aspects scheduled for the five year plan. “We must overcome the negative consequences of the financial-economic crisis — which burst onto our planet — in the shortest possible time. We should restore the pre-crisis pace of economic growth and, naturally, ensure that people’s standard of living improves,” he stressed.
Here is a summary of the President’s talk with journalists.
On national language. The President is convinced that language related issues have been solved, via the referendum. “If you wish to speak Belarusian, please do. No one will stop you. If you want to speak Russian then feel free,” he said, briefly explaining the core of the problem. “Language is a sphere which cannot be controlled — by dictatorship or violence.” His words can be illustrated by two examples. The President said that, every year, the number of students successfully passing exams in Belarusian grows, which is a good trend. He noted that his youngest son is slowly absorbing the language via Belarusian songs, adding, “Let’s put aside this very delicate and nagging theme. Thank God, we haven’t committed follies in this area.”
On reforms. According to the President, their pace depends on the readiness and wishes of the population. “If you are ready for avalanche privatisation, then, for God’s sake, we’ll sell all state property in half a year,” Mr. Lukashenko stressed. “However, people won’t approve. If the public were to be told the true nature of privatisation — its good and bad points — I’m convinced that only about 10 percent would say we need it.”
On the Customs Union. “We`ll lose nothing but could gain much,” Mr. Lukashenko explained. However, he noted that it’s naпve to believe that the Customs Union will automatically lift all problems between member states. “There are many problems. Russia doesn’t want to lose its hold on the supply of natural gas, oil and oil products. However, no other situation seems possible. We’ll need to spill much blood — our own and Russia’s — before we agree…”
Clarification on salaries of $500. Speaking of the feasibility of such plans, the President stressed, “We have planned not just for words — to accompany the election campaign. Five years ago, we promised to raise salaries to this sum.” Mr. Lukashenko notes that Belarus has begun demonstrating economic progress, enabling officials to speak of raising salaries.
On dialogue with the West. “Believe me, there is nothing I haven’t been asked about in public. We are cutting a window to Europe — not to enable me to go to Austria to ski, as some people have written. We are cutting this window because Europe accounts for 44 percent of our exports (30 percent are sold to Russia). The President believes that, under such conditions, it is ridiculous to say that he intends ‘to deceive Europe’. “I tell Europeans openly: let me know if you intend to continue the present policy of playing cat and mouse with us. Sanctions seem to remain, despite having been abolished for a year. How should I react?” the President asked logically. He answered, “I understand that they are waiting for the presidential elections. They want to keep me dangling for some time. We’ll find other channels of conducting dialogue with you.”
On the threat to sovereignty regarding closer integration with Russia. According to Mr. Lukashenko, ‘we are too focused on this issue’. “The world stopped thinking like that a long time ago, yet we still cling to the icon of sovereignty,” he remarked, adding, “Sovereignty is power over a territory. What power are we losing? Rather, we see profit and want to give it to our people…”
Within the Customs Union, a supranational organ is to decide by majority vote. This could contradict our interests, so more than 600 sensitive positions have been outlined — whereby decisions cannot be made without Belarus’ consent.
On controlling the Internet. “Access to the Internet will not be restricted in Belarus but regulations will be toughened,” Mr. Lukashenko said. “We must and will respond to what’s happening. However, we won’t prohibit anything. There will be no bans — only responsibility. We’ll make it so that lies and truths are made known. Those who break the law will bear responsibility.”
On lessons learnt in 2009. The President believes that the main lesson learnt from foreign policy is that, having announced its multi-vector policy, Belarus ‘has relied too much on its Eastern wing’. “We’ve forgotten that we are in the centre of Europe and should build relations with all neighbours — not only with brotherly Russia but also with the European Union,” he stressed. “This is a lesson learnt. In 2009, we worked much towards the West — to level out the situation.”
According to Mr. Lukashenko, the major economic lesson is that modernisation should have been conducted more quickly. “This would have made it possible to overcome the crisis more easily,” he supposed.
“The main lesson we’ve learnt is that we have one land — one country where we and our children live,” the President asserted, summing up his views.