Belarusian Embassy refused visas to representatives of Swedish NGOs
This is the information provided by Radio Liberty.
The Belarusian Embassy to Sweden refused visas to 9 representatives of Swedish non-governmental organizations that had planned to attend the Belarus-Sweden conference in Minsk. Also, Minsk City Executive Committee required that the organizers of the event, the Swedish Center for International Cooperation Forum Syd and the Minsk department of the Embassy of Sweden in Moscow, provide special permission for the conference. As a result, it was called off.
A contact Belarus-Sweden conference of non-governmental organizations had been planned to take place in the Belarus Hotel. The goal of the conference was organization of joint projects in the social and environmental spheres. However, days before the event, the hotel managers required permission allowing the conference. The referred to the letter faxed by the ideology department of Minsk City Executive Committee. The conference organizers were not allowed to read the fax which, however, the Belarus used as a reason for refusing rental of the premises.
Uladzimer Zubryk, the deputy head of the ideology department of Minsk City Executive Committee explained that organizers of such conferences must apply for an appropriate permission.
(Zubryk: ) "They contact us and we spell out the required procedures, the documents to prepare, people to contact for permission. They did not contact us, so we… The hotel general manager contacted us. He asked if we could explain how such events should be held. We briefed him on the problem".
Mr. Zubryk related the contents of the paper sent to the hotel general manager.
(Zubryk: ) "The permission is issued by the Chamber of Representatives, the commission, this commission receives documents on the conduct of events from the Ministry of Economy. That's why, it is necessary to contact the Ministry of Economy that hands over the documents to the Chamber of Representatives, where they take the final decision".
The representative of the ideology department of Minsk City Executive Committee did not specify the legal framework of the procedure.
The conference organizers, Forum Syd and the Swedish mission, were prepared to change the meeting format and conduct it outside the hotel. However, another problem appeared: the conference participants from Sweden did not get Belarusian visas and so could not come to Minsk. Why did the Belarusian Embassy in Stockholm refused visas? This question is for the representative of the information department of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus Ruslan Iesin.
(Iesin: ) "The Foreign Ministry, as a rule, does not issue comments. This is an internationally accepted norm observed by Belarus and by all other countries of Europe. No further comments, sorry".
At the same time, the representatives of the Swedish center Forum Syd in Minsk Uladzislau Vialichka explains: the Belarusian authorities created conditions that led to the cancellation of the conference.
(Vialichka: ) "The information was submitted in due time, everything was being done openly, all the preparation involved, we exchanged information with the Foreign Ministry of Belarus. I can't say they have a positive attitude to this event but they did not give any negative comments to us during the preparation, or place any ban on the ongoing activities. So, it was absolutely unexpected, the decision why the Swedish citizens did not get Belarusian visas remains ungrounded.
Yet another representative of the Swedish center Forum Syd Tatsiana Pashevalava continues to add:
(Pashevalava: ) "True, there was a kind of directive: given the current international context, all public events, like conferences or seminars should be called off – to be on the safe side. For some reason the authorities do not like them. They just do not want many people gathering together in one place and discussing something there, they are just afraid of public discussions, even those devoted to the social topics".