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Belarus Suspends European Cultural Convention, Marking a Shift in Cultural Policy

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Hadeel Hashem
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Belarus Suspends European Cultural Convention, Marking a Shift in Cultural Policy

On November 28, 2023, the European Cultural Convention, an initiative aimed at preserving national culture as part of European heritage, was suspended by Belarus. The decision, registered in the National Register by the Council of Ministers, marks a significant shift in the country's cultural policy. The convention, signed in Paris on December 19, 1954, by the Council of Europe, took effect in Belarus on October 18, 1993, just a year before Alexander Lukashenko assumed power.

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Belarus Steps Back from European Cultural Convention

The European Cultural Convention was formed with the intent of fostering unity among members to protect and promote shared ideals and principles. Obligations of participants include safeguarding their unique contributions to Europe's shared cultural heritage and encouraging the study of other European countries' languages, history, and culture. Belarus' decision to step back from the convention comes as a surprise, especially considering it was once praised for its 'significant contribution' to the convention's implementation.

Impact of the Suspension

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The suspension of the convention by Belarus is a direct consequence of the large-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russia on June 1, 2022. Following the conflict, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe excluded Russia and Belarus from bodies related to the European Cultural Convention. This included governance committees on education, culture, heritage, landscape, youth affairs, the Youth Advisory Council, and the Joint Committee on Youth. The decision to suspend the convention could have severe implications on the promotion and preservation of Belarusian culture.

Looking Ahead

Before the escalation of the war, Snežana Samardžić-Marković, the Council of Europe's Director General of Democracy, was confident of Belarus's participation in promoting the country and its culture. However, the current situation indicates a stark departure from this optimism. The suspension of the convention by Belarus underlines the country’s shift away from Europe's cultural landscape and marks a significant development in its cultural policy.

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