EU diplomats took a cycling tour in Loshytski Park. Together with Belarusan supporters of careful attitude towards the environment the cycling tour gathered 120 participants.
The French Embassy in Belarus was the organizer of the cycling tour. In 2015 climate is one of the priorities in France’s foreign policy. This year from November 30 to December 11 Paris will host 21st UN Conference of the Parties on climate change (COP-21).
Besides, June 17 is a European Day of climate diplomacy. Minsk bicycle community offered free bikes for those who decided to participate in the tour, but who don’t have their own bikes. Cycling tour wasn’t symbolic – for an hour and a half diplomats, staff of diplomatic missions and representatives of EU Commission and UN, and civic activists were cycling round the park with COP-21 symbolics.
Dominique Gazuy, the French ambassador to Belarus, in her concluding remarks emphasized the French constituent of the demarche: “Fight on climatic changes is prioritized in France’s diplomatic work. 18 years after signing the Kyoto protocol both France and the whole world community faces a serious task that demands a prompt scientific solution: to ensue universal and tough agreement on holding global warming within the 2 degrees centigrade in comparison with the pre-industrial time. To reach this goal, for many months in a row, French diplomacy has been mobilizing all interested parties: the states, local self-governing bodies, enterprises, and civil society”.
First Counselor at the French Embassy in Belarus Elsa Pignol, in her turn, explained the “EuroBelarus” Information Service why it were bicycles that were chosen for the demarche in Minsk: “We believe that bike is a very popular and favorite means of transport in Minsk. And the city itself is well adapted for the use of bicycles; that is why such idea appeared”. We can, of course, argue about the level of the city’s adjustment to the use of bikes; but, maybe it is seen better from the outside. At least Minsk is really changing for the better in terms of friendly attitude towards cyclists, even if not that quickly, as the bikers would like to.
U.S. Charge D’Affaires to Belarus Scott Roland was also optimistic about the ecologic transport in Minsk: “It’s not my first time in Loshytski Park. We support construction of bikeway from Naliboki forest to Minsk in Belarus so that the whole country could organize such tours”. If the project is realized, this would be a considerable distance for the biking tour – it is almost 100 km from Naliboki forest to Minsk.
Charge d'Affaires of the European Union delegation in Belarus Rodolphe Richard called for the Belarusan authorities to note the initiatives of civic activists that touch upon attitude towards the environment: “Climate changes are not only technical problems. There are opportunities to do something bigger. And people in Belarus demonstrate their readiness to this. Sometimes they choose a different means of transport; or, for example, they are ready to sort the garbage. I think that the authorities should respond to such initiatives. And Belarusans will be reacting to it and participate in it”.
A biking tour for European diplomats was also an educational event. During the demarche city historians from “Minsk biking tour” community had time to tell about the sights of the Loshytski Park.
Elsa Pignol allows for the possibility of changing biking tours with diplomats into a tradition: “It is a very nice event. I hope that everyone liked it. Perhaps, we will repeat it next year; why not! If there will be other people willing to participate we will be very happy. Nature is beautiful, air is clean; everything is great!”
Judging by the first biking tour, the next one – if it takes place – will gather more participants. As NataliaZaitseva, press-secretary for the French Embassy, told to the “EuroBelarus” Information Service, the format of the event doesn’t satisfy the increased demand for the participation in the biking tour – registration for the event had to be finished at the very first day. Thus, ecologic initiatives really interest Belarusans.
The members of the diplomatic corps that were taking part in the biking tour:
French Embassy – headed by the Dominique Gazuy, the French ambassador to Belarus;
Italian Embassy – headed by the ambassador Stefano Bianchi;
British Embassy – headed by the ambassador Bruce Bucknell;
Estonian Embassy – headed by the ambassador Mite Martinson;
U.S. Embassy – headed by the Charge D’Affaires to Belarus Scott Roland;
Representatives of Latvian, Hungarian, Armenian embassies, representatives of the European Commission and UN in Belarus.