EU tries to keep Belarus in its influence sphere or at least at border of the “Russian World”, which means that it’ll sacrifice democratic society’s interests for good relations with the regime.
However, civil society shouldn’t just observe, but actively change the circumstances instead: it is from its actions that the level of degradation depends as well as the country’s ability to resist negative trends.
The conference will also evaluate the state of the Belarusan National Platform, its place and tasks in Belarus and in the “Eastern Partnership” program.
However, the main issue of the conference’s agenda is to whether dissolve the National Platform or continue working?
On the eve of the Conference of the Belarusan National Platform “EuroBelarus” Information Service talked with Andrei Yahorau, chair of the Coordinating Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, national coordinator of the EaP CSF for Belarus, the co-chair of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum, and the Director of the Center for European Transformation.
- What is happening with the Belarusan civil society in situation of a regional crisis and internal standstill?
- Actually, we should better ask what will happen with it in this situation.
These are quite new circumstances for the Belarusan society and civil society. Geopolitical confrontation of the two models – “Russian World” and “united Europe” – in the Eastern Partnership region today affects both the international situation around Belarus and the political situation inside the country, public opinion, civic consciousness, and identity.
External political context is changing so that because of the crisis the problems of changes in Belarus recede into the background, while EU policy aims at keeping the country in the sphere of European influence or, at least at the border of the “Russian World”. That means that the interests of the agents inside Belarus and the interests of the pro-European civil society in the first turn will be sacrificed in the name of good relations with the Belarusan authorities, stability, etc.
The regime will be using this time for the attempts of its own legitimation in the eyes of the international community and resolution of economic problems.
The desire for changes in the society will be compensated by the fears of instability and by an example of painful transformations in Ukraine.
If we immediately proceed to the conclusions, all the factors will be rather playing for the freezing of situation in Belarus with all the consequences: continuation of marginalization of all independent structures, of washout and migration of the active part of society; stimulation of passiveness and further cultural degradation of the majority of society, and general standstill in political and economic development.
Civil society will be experiencing the same problems that the society in general. But that is why it is called civil society – in order to actively change circumstances, not endure them! It is from the actions of the civil society that the level of degradation and ability to oppose these trends depend.
- What threat does separation from the state and professionalization of the third sector present for the social and political transformation in Belarus?
- Separation from the state is the change of the civil society for pro-state controllable and seemingly “civil society” organizations. In fact, this isn’t a new phenomenon for Belarus, but now it will be growing, also because of the attempts of the state to offer the EU a “proper” civil society in the new circumstances.
Professionalization of the third sector is a tendency of incorporating CSOs in the existing system of social and economic relations in the country. Roughly speaking, third sector is more and more looking like a place of employment, not a place where people spend their free time for achieving their idealistic goals and aspirations. But despite the huge difference between these two tendencies they both affect the preservation of the existing situation, not its change – they help to “freeze” any transformations.
- Indeed, we can’t say that the work of the National Platform is successful, since it is undergoing the same standstill that the political opposition and other independent structures. We merely lack the boldness to talk about it openly. National Platform is undergoing a crisis of activity at the level of its organizations; i.e. it is barely demanded as an area for coordinating common actions and public promotion of their interests.
Besides, Belarusan National Platform doesn’t have institutional connections with the EU structures; its role in the European-Belarusan relations is unclear, and its legitimacy remains unclear, too. All this to a large degree deprives it of any sense to exist as a structure within the frames of the Eastern Partnership and in the Belarus-EU relations.
However, there are positive examples: it was the Public Bologna Committee and the National Platform which secured Belarus’ inclusion into an EHEA (European Higher Education Area) – Bologna process – on terms of the obligatory realization of the “road map” of reforms. That demonstrates that BNP still has potential and can be used given the proper approach.
- What is the further perspective of the BNP? Are you ready to dissolve the National Platform or continue its work?
- Its prospects will be established at the regular conference on June 25. Personally, I stand for its preservation, though with the revision of goals and readjustment of the platform. At least we should conduct inventory of the BNP members, introduce rules of obligatory minimum of participation in the Platform’s work, entrust BNP with a number of tasks within the frames of the Eastern Partnership as a minimum. BNP should present an annual report on its condition, civil society development and its real participation in the Belarus-EU relations, carry on informative work with the Belarusan society at the least…