Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Swedish Radio and Belarus

Sveriges Radio - the Swedish public broadcasting company has decided to close its sendings in Belarussian. These sendings were a kind of "Radio Free Europe" in the dicactorship Belarus . The Swedish students' group Liberala Studenter have launched an online petition, askin Sveriges Radio to keep the broadcast as a way to support democracy work in Belarus. I was made aware of the topic from posting on the Central europe mailing list. Since it is a public mailing list I take the freedom that publish the entire letter from Sławomir Wójcik here.

Posted by: "Sławomir Wójcik" slawek.wojcik
Sat Aug 8, 2009 3:45 am (PDT)

Protest against Swedish Radio International - who are closing down the
belarusian radioprogramme which had listeners in Belarus (in
belarusian) and promoted the democratic society. The chief of SRI
Ingemar Löfgren says "democracy projects is not our job" - but the
thing is - Swedish Radio is Public Servise and it SHOULD promote
democracy aswell. Please help us support this protest and sign this

In swedish: Namninsamling startad - protest mot Sveriges Radios
nedläggning av de vitryska sändningarna. Skriv under du med och stöd
demokratirörelsen i Belarus!

Press: "Skriv på listan" (=sign the list) down in the corner, then
sign your first name in "förnamn", second name in "efternamn", your
e-mailadress in "epostadress" (it will not be shown on the list, its
just to confirm the signing in a confirmation email) and in "postort"
you write your city. Then press "Spara" (=save).
Thank you!


There are, of course many reasons to keep these broadcasts. Sweden has direct historical, ecological and social ties to the Baltic region incuding Russia and Belarus, and a great reponsibility to work for improved human rights in the region. The fact that Lukajsenko, the dictator of Belarus have showed an increased interest in Europe, should not be an excuse for be more forgiving towards crimes against human rights.

Except for historical and social ties, the Swedish and Polish governments have launched the EU's so called Eastern partnership, a program that was covered in this weekend's Kapital ( #31 page 25). Unfortunately it doesn't seem very clear what the EU wants to offer these countries... certainly not a quick membership, or abolishment of visa regimes. Russia on the other hand, can offer cheap gas and visa-free traveling, at the expense of human rights.

If the EU wants to play hardballs againts Russia, vagueness is unforgivable. And EU showed nothing but indecisiveness towards the violence in Moldova in April. Moreover, as Kapital points out - how can you formulate one coherent policy for countries as disparate as democratical, chaotical Ukraine, authoritarian pro-russian Belarus, a little less authoritarian pro-western Georgia and discretely authoritarian, slighlty democratic and chaotic moldova?

The countries themselves are deeply split on the issue, and in no country, except for Moldova, Kapital writes, is there a strong majority for closer ties to the EU. Kapital adds an interesting graph, showing that in Moldova 80% are for closer ties with the EU and 60% for closer ties with Russia. 140% of all Moldovans are confused I guess...

Maybe Kapital's mistaken graph is closer to ones they got right. Identities are complex, and closer economical ties to the EU and human rights should not necessary exclude a strong cultural affinity with Russia in these countries.

The EU should also ask itself - is Europe ready to redefine itself and regard Moldova, Azerbadjan and Ukraine as parts of Europe - as European as Bretagne or The Rhein valley. If it's not, what could it actually promise?

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