A visiting delegation from the Czech Republic's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the Government spoke with EHU students about their hopes and aspirations as well as ideas that could transform Belarus. Speaking at the meeting on EHU's campus, Director General of the Foreign Ministry's Europe Section Jaroslav Kurfürst assured students that the Czech Republic will maintain its support for their university. He also discussed the Czech Republic's cost-free visa practice for Belarusian students and civil society activists.
“The Czech Republic's priority is to support civil society. We are issuing one third of all visas cost-free for students and civil society,” said Kurfürst. While the government cannot allow visa-free travel due to its obligations to the European Union, it is doing what it can to lower the cost, he noted.
EHU students confirmed that possibilities to travel open their minds and provide an important view of what life outside Belarus is like.
“People who travel are European-minded. They are ready for changes,” said Aliaksandra Krypets, an undergraduate Cultural Heritage student. According to her, EHU produces new generations of Belarusians with “fresh ideas, European values, and European minds.”
Kurfürst emphasized that, although the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemns the situation of political prisoners and the lack of the rule of law in Belarus, closing the door on the country will not lead to positive changes. Therefore, he said dialogue must be maintained.
“We are one of the countries saying, 'Don’t impose flat sanctions, don’t isolate Belarus, don’t close channels of communication with the government.' If you don’t talk you cannot achieve change.”
Kurfürst suggested that instead, nonpolitical partnerships focused for example on increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewables or other goals should be sought. In addition, there is cooperation between Czech and Belarusian artists, which enables the exchange of cultural ideas.
Students added that changes begin with education and they feel inspired to be active at the university.
“When I go home, I am inspired and excited and full of joy. I tell people I am so happy here and that there are a lot of opportunities,” said Mariya Kotsupalova, an undergraduate student of Media and Communication.
“We have resources to change something: a new generation of Belarusians whose minds are open. We should use this resource. It is really important to inspire people by our own example, to show how Belarusian people could live,” added Uladzislau Pantsevich, an undergraduate Media and Communication student.