Voices from Belarus

, by Horia-Victor Lefter, Jacopo Barbati

Voices from Belarus

Today, Belarus will go to vote to decide its future President. As we know, democracy represents a big issue in this country. The New Federalist managed to interview some Belarusian citizens, and asked them some details and personal impressions about their home country and the EU.

Anna Karenina (faux-name), 25 years old, currently studying in Belgium.

Europe is in an integrating process. The institutions work on it. They interact, but we can still feel a kind of independence spirit in the European Union. There are external and internal policies but national governments still oppose resistance. The Council is a place where States can interact, but national interests often prevail and this makes the integration process even more difficult. From one side, the EU is integrated, it has a single European market, it is one of the most powerful trade partners in the world, it has its own currency, but on the other side some member States have an opt-out system (like the UK with their pound), there is no tax system and the EU only has a very weak military power.

Europe is in an integrating process. [...] the unification starts from the national level, from the citizen’s level.

The EU is integrating, making positive steps such as developing common policies, because it is in its own interests, and there is a strong desire to unite Europe. But the unification starts from the national level, from the citizen’s level. Since less attention is being paid to the citizens, they lack trust in the EU. This is the problem with the European institutions because the citizens delegate their power to the Members of the European Parliament, but they do not know who takes which decision, and how the decisions are taken Consequently, the European citizens do not understand their interest in the decision-making process. Therefore, a connection between people and the EU should be established. Another issue is that the member States are not similar. There are stronger countries such as France, Germany, the UK, and new countries such as Malta and Romania which need support. The representatives do not want to talk and to listen to each others. And that is the reason why when the decisions are taken at the Council’s level for instance or when a majority of votes or a consensus is requested, that the solution is often more related to national interests than European ones.

Viachorka Franak, 22 years old, cultural and social activist

In the EU, citizens can not be arrested and put into jail without any reason, there is no persecution or discrimination based on languages, and torture and death penalty are illegal.

The first meaning of the European Union for me is the idea of respect for people and high standards of life. State Propagandists like to compare Belarus to Iran, Russia or Azerbaijan. But in Poland, our neighbour which recently joined the EU, salaries are 3-4 times higher than in Belarus (about $ 1000). In the EU, citizens can not be arrested and put into jail without any reason, there is no persecution or discrimination based on languages, and torture and death penalty are illegal. Of course, there are many problems in the EU, but these problems are completely different. Secondly, the European Union from Belarus looks like the restoration of historical justice. It can not be an eternal bridge between east and west. Belarusian history and culture - an integral part of the European. The EU is for us the only chance to break with the Soviet past which keeps us in the 20 century.

Feliks Krasouski, 26 years old, currently living in Sweden.

And my dream is that one day we will understand and accept each others as we are, and to create a kind of spontaneous mutual learning without having to establish “how-to-do” rules.

The European Union is an important player on the global arena, it represents a strong and efficient community and I am glad that Belarus has such a neighbour. Moreover, I am delighted that the EU seems more and more concerned by Belarus, and that we could lately notice some positive signs of mutual understanding and successful cooperation. In my opinion, the EU is a well organized and effectively functioning system of countries promoting human rights, security and welfare. Nothing is perfect in this world, the EU isn’t either: there are economic problems and social issues in the EU just like in any other country. But what really makes me believe in the EU is the idea that an EU member State can always rely on the other member States in case of emergency. And my dream is that one day we will understand and accept each others as we are, and to create a kind of spontaneous mutual learning without having to establish “how-to-do” rules.

Aleś Čarńakovič, 22 years old.

What seems important for people from Belarus is that every single citizen in the EU can be sure that his/her rights and freedoms are safely secured, thanks to the European Law.

The European Union is the relevant result of an integration process which started more than 50 years ago. When independent countries voluntarily cooperate and integrate simultaneously while refusing privileges, it means that a high level of democratic maturity has been reached. They even make decisions together in some spheres of state policy deputing them to supranational institutions. For the member States, the EU is an economic advisor and a backup, a source of strategic planning for the development of every member. Concerning business activities, the EU is a great source of opportunities and open markets; for labour force it gives the possibility to find a job matching with job seekers’ skills; for youngsters it gives a chance to get the best education of the continent; for all the EU citizens, the Union offers the possibility to travel without boundaries. What seems important for people from Belarus is that every single citizen in the EU can be sure that his/her rights and freedoms are safely secured, thanks to the European Law. Decades after its creation, the EU as a single entity has become a major player in International Affairs. It is impossible to estimate the influence of the EU on the political, economic, social and even cultural processes going on in the world today. Moreover, I believe that there are even greater perspectives for development and prosperity. Despite some problems and difficulties to come to joint positions on various issues, the EU still represents a positive example of integration and has a great potential for future development.

This articles was written in December 2010.

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