Lukashenka borrows money for reforms he intends to skip

Europe gives Belarus money for local self-government, but does not demand any results from the head of Belarus, Vitaut Siuchyk reports.

Meeting with Anders Knape, the chairman of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, the head of Belarus stated the need to decentralize local government:

“We, of course, will move in the direction of greater autonomy of local governments. A lot of good things created by you should be adopted in Belarus.”

Lukashenka has promised to move in this direction before. Here is what the head of state said during a meeting with Mr. Knape’s predecessor, Gudrun Mosler-Turnström, last year in September:

“Local self-government and regional governance is a fairly significant topic in the modern world.”

But the words are not followed by any structural changes.

“This is the desire to get some amount of resources for decentralization, in which both the European Union and other structures are willing to invest,” says Andrei Yahorau, director of the Center for European Transformation.

Decentralization could really bring tangible economic benefits, the expert is convinced. But the emancipation of local bureaucracy carries risks for the existing political system.

“There has been no local government since 1995. Before 1995, they elected mayors through the councils. Lukashenka once said that this is a rampant democracy,” says Alyaksandr Zarambyuk, a former deputy of the Masty District Council (2003-2007), who now heads the Belarusian House in Warsaw.

The rampage stopped. However, out of the whole of Europe, Belarus is the only country that has not signed the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Nevertheless, during the meeting with Lukashenka, Anders Knape noted that he had good impressions from the visit to our country and was interested in greater cooperation.

“The Council of Europe traditionally loves such statements that everything in Belarus is much better than it actually is. Probably, a role of the Council of Europe to lure Belarus into this structure does exist,” Andrei Yahorau, director of the Center for European Transformation, said in a statement.

Attempts, however, have been unsuccessful. The recipe for how to make local self-government successful and relevant lies on the surface: free elections and legislative transfer of large competences to the localities. But today nobody demands this from the head of Belarus.

“The West will start or continue, as there are already such projects, to finance Belarusian regional executive committees that are included in the system of the vertical of power in Belarus, and at the local level they will receive this European money in the form of grants,” says Zarambiuk.

But, as the former deputy of the district council notes, the command-vertical system will not change from the infusion of Western money.

Vitaut Siuchyk, Belsat

Photos of Francois Lenoir / Reuters / Forum and Nikolai Petrov / BelTA / TASS / Forum were used in the collage

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