Belarus has taken a major step back from Europe's cultural stage by suspending its participation in a landmark convention promoting regional artistic exchange. It is only the latest political fallout from the condemnation of the country’s support for Russia's war in Ukraine" />
Belarus has taken a major step back from Europe's cultural stage by suspending its participation in a landmark convention promoting regional artistic exchange. It is only the latest political fallout from the condemnation of the country’s support for Russia's war in UkraineBy Creatives Unite Newsroom
The authoritarian government announced it has formally halted involvement in the European Cultural Convention, a pan-continental agreement signed in 1954 that facilitates cooperation and mobility for arts professionals across Council of Europe member countries. Minsk's move to ditch the pact suggests its growing isolation, even as cracks splinter its cultural relationships forged over decades since the Soviet collapse.
The country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated it has officially delivered notification of its withdrawal from the agreement, which entered into force immediately. The convention, adopted by the Council of Europe shortly after its founding in 1949, aims to champion cultural diversity, promote common artistic heritage, and encourage the free flow of artworks and ideas across borders through travelling exhibitions, shared funding initiatives and educational exchanges.
Yet Belarus' increasing ostracization by European democracies over the Lukashenko regime's rights abuses and support for Vladimir Putin's war against Ukraine has now ruptured even these cultural connections nurtured since it joined the convention in 1993.
The European Parliament has condemned Belarus' complicity in Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, noting the regime's role in the illegal transfers and indoctrination of Ukrainian children. This condemnation is part of a series of resolutions that have called for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant against Belarusian President Lukashenka.
In March, the Committee of Ministers announced the suspension of all Council of Europe political and technical links with Minsk while also excluding its officials from meetings and activities. That move has now reached the cultural realm with Belarus forfeiting involvement in convention programmes.
On the other hand, Artists fear ordinary Belarusians yearning for engagement with the wider continent will only become further isolated amid the wintry chill in relations with Europe. "This risks leaving our country freezing outside while the rest of Europe moves forward," warned Minsk-based singer Anastasiya Shpakouskaya.
BackgroundThe European Cultural Convention, adopted by the Council of Europe in 1954, is an international treaty aimed at strengthening, deepening, and further developing European culture by using local culture as a starting point. It sets common goals and a plan of action to reach an integrated European society, celebrating universal values, rights, and diversity. The Convention contributes to concerted action by encouraging cultural activities of European interest, and its purpose is to develop mutual understanding among the peoples of Europe and reciprocal appreciation of their cultural diversity, safeguard European culture, promote national contributions to Europe's common cultural heritage, and encourage the study of the languages, history, and civilization of the Parties to the Convention.