A single referendum strategy, economic reforms and new sanctions against Minsk. What other plans do the democratic forces of Belarus have for 2022?
The democratic forces of Belarus held an online meeting at which they summed up the results of the year and shared plans for the next. The leader of the Belarusian opposition Svetlana Tihanovskaya called 2021 the harshest year in modern history of Belarus on the scale of political repression: “241 NGOs and 40 media were closed down. The regime opened more than 4,500 politically motivated cases and 929 people were recognized political prisoners.
But the mistakes of the Belarusian regime this year showed how unstable it is, she adds: “The Ryanair hijacking, the attempted kidnapping of an Olympic track and field athlete, the migration crisis as an attempted hybrid attack on the European Union.” All of this, however, has not prevented hundreds of NGOs and media outlets from reopening outside the country: “The Belarusians have not abandoned their intentions, the people have not turned the page. According to the leader of the Belarusian opposition, 64% of the Belarusians believe that free elections are a way out of the protracted crisis.
Next year, the leaders of the democratic forces will continue to work on joint projects, in particular, on a unified strategy for mobilizing the Belarusians in a referendum on the Constitution. “2022 will be the year for us, Belarusians, to keep unity, regroup, build resistance and begin the process of democratization,” says Svetlana Tihanovskaya. She added that the democratic forces are working to strengthen security for activists and to bring the former officials and law enforcement officers to their side.
Svetlana Tihanovskaya promised to continue working on the international level to make the EU assistance more flexible and available for Belarusians, including Belarusian business. “We are also working to give Belarusians access to EU-approved vaccines,” she added.
Economic reforms and trade liberalization with the EU
Representatives of democratic forces of Belarus also shared the results of their work and plans for certain directions. Ales Alekhnovich, Tikhanovska’s economic advisor, said that the work is carried out in three directions: economic pressure on the regime, international support of the Belarusian society and business in the country and abroad, as well as economic reforms. According to him, the pressure on the regime through sanctions works: “The economic pressure makes Lukashenko make mistakes (migration crisis), makes him toxic for international partners – China, as well as for his supporters like Mikhail Gutseriyev. In 2022, the team will continue to work on this, including to prevent the regime from trying to circumvent sanctions.
Alekhnovich calls the decision of the EU to support democratic changes in Belarus with a program amounting to 3 billion euros the success of international work in 2021: “This is a unique plan and a great success for democratic forces. For the first time, it is not support for Lukashenko’s regime, but for civil society in Belarus. Secondly, the amount of €3 billion corresponds to six percent of GDP in Belarus. This is much more than the loans Lukashenko was promised by Putin.
According to Alekhnovich, a plan of economic reforms for the future of Belarus is to be finished and published in 2022. More than 20 economists from all over the world were working on it. Their joint work was first published in 2021 by the international think tank Chatham House.
In 2022, the dems intend to lobby for liberalization of trade in services between Belarus and the EU. “This would be a support for Belarusian business within the country now, under the current regime,” explains Ales Alekhnovich. – “If the 27 EU countries agree to ease the business regime for the private sector, it would allow logistics, construction, IT companies to trade with the EU. He notes that legally it is legitimate, despite the membership in the Eurasian Economic Union. A similar precedent already took place 12 years ago, when the countries of the former Yugoslavia facilitated trade in goods with the EU.
Lukashenko’s trial, support for political prisoners and resistance
Other representatives of the democratic forces also told about the results and plans. Uladzimir Ostapenka of the National anti-crisis management stated about the intensification of the actions to bring representatives of Lukashenko’s regime to the international court for crimes against humanity. According to him, the work for diplomatic isolation of the regime, for stripping diplomats of their accreditations and toughening international sanctions will be continued. Ivan Kravtsov, executive manager of Victor Babariko’s headquarters, urged Belarusians to continue supporting political prisoners, writing letters to them and helping their families.
Andrei Yegorov, a member of the Coordinating Council, was less optimistic in his plans for 2022. “The pressure will intensify, one should be prepared for different methods and think forward,” he said. At the same time, Egorov noted that a huge number of initiatives in different spheres – in education, in culture – continue to work within the country. “It’s hard to say openly what is going on in Belarus. But Belarusian society keeps resisting,” he stated.