IENNA, 12 November (BelTA) - Belarus is an absolutely open country, Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko told a press conference following the talks with Austrian Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen in Vienna on 12 November, BelTA has learned.
“We are an absolutely open country. I can assure you, we are more open than you. Citizens of about 90 states have the ability to enter the authoritarian, as you put it, Belarus without visas. We are absolutely open to all,” the head of state noted.
He assumed that the journalist who asked this question has never been to Belarus. He suggested visiting the country and seeing the situation with his own eyes before jumping to conclusions.
As for some authoritarianism in the country, Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that indeed these things in Belarus are very different from the system of governance of state institutions, the society and the economy in Austria. “If you asked me what is better for Belarus at this stage of development, we would not find a common ground,” the president told the journalist.
Aleksandr Lukashenko noted that sometimes it is not clear what they mean when they ask a question about human rights: “What don't you like in Belarus in terms of human rights? There is the right to life. It is the key right. Then there is the right to work. Every Belarusian should be able to find a job in his or her own country. If there is a wish, he or she should be able to go to Austria, Poland or other countries. Are you saying we ban people from going abroad? No, you are not,” the president said.
The head of state also noted that Belarus has ensured full access to the right to education. “The education in Belarus is sponsored by the state. Education is free for Belarusians. Is free education as developed in your country as it is in Belarus? I can immediately say: far from it,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed. Everyone in Belarus is enrolled in general secondary education, and about a half receive free university education later on. Besides, healthcare is free for all citizens in the country.
“I would like you to name at least one country in the European Union that could boast similar achievements,” the Belarusian leader said. “I can recall a lot of things. But when a journalist asks me about some human rights, I interpret it as a question about media freedom and so on... Have you ever heard that internet is banned in Belarus? Perhaps these reproaches are a thing of the past. Today it is impossible to ban anything, especially in mass media,” the Belarusian leader noted.
Speaking about freedom of information, the head of state added: "You launch any messenger, a phone, a tablet, or a computer, and you get access to any kind of information. I suggest you have a look at what they have written about me, the authoritarian leader, as you dubbed me, in the past month. You, the representative of a democratic country and the democratic press, will be in for a big surprise.”
Aleksandr Lukashenko said that the journalist's question about human rights is a traditional one, but it has nothing to do with the real situation in Belarus. “I invite you, as I invite many other journalists, to visit Belarus. There have been many reasons to do it, including the recent 2nd European Games. We are going to co-host the world championship [IIHF World Championship] with Latvia in 2021. Of course, you are welcome to visit the country any time ahead of the event,” he said.
“If you do come early, I am sure, you will bring your family and friends to Belarus in 2021. This is a country you want to revisit. This is a country where you can have a relaxed and safe holiday,” the Belarusian leader said.
He added that not long ago he read about the opinion of an Austrian who visited Belarus and who was impressed with security and hospitality in the country.
“I said to Mr. President: yes, we are not so rich from the economic point of view. You know, riches do not only mean material wealth. They are, first of all, spiritual riches. Our country was wiped out during World War Two. If we had not mobilized then, if we had not built the authoritarian power, as you put it, we would not have a sovereign and independent Belarus today,” the head of state said.
Aleksandr Lukashenko also spoke about today's complicated situation around Belarus: “We are clamped between the East and the West. We sometimes find ourselves in a very difficult situation. Not long ago Europe closed the door on us and put us in a survival mode. We used various methods and means to survive. No one, however, can say that those methods were undemocratic, that they harmed our people.”
“The Belarusian people is the greatest value for me. So is for Europe. We will always stay committed to the interests of the nation,” the president said.More about President