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2015 in Belarus and the world: Year in review

On the first of January 2015, with the beginning of the year, Lithuania switched to the euro, becoming the 19th state in the monetary zone. The EU enlargement was not a sign of health or strength: the economy of the united Europe for the whole year was being shaken by Greek fever. In January, the Syriza party of Premier Tsipras won the election and declared that Athens refused to pay back-breaking debts, which are subject to restructuring.

The whole of Europe struggled with Greece and finally made it take more money. Mainly to pay off old debts. Just a couple of days ago, on December 22, the country received $1 billion from the third aid package. The EU was saved from a parade of defaults and decay.

Oil fell by a quarter: from the $50 for Brent in January to the current 37 greenbacks. It is impossible to explain the logic of this fall. Yes, there was a stock market crisis in China but it did not have fatal consequences for the economy.  The growth slowed only slightly remaining at a fantastic 7%. So it seems that China's oil demand will remain strong. As far as shale hydrocarbons as concerned, they cannot compete with usual oil because of high costs.

Finally, the Middle East is at war, and Iran has still not returned to the world oil market. In general, there are no indications to the cheapening of "black gold" while it still continues. As a consequence we see the falling purchasing power of Russia and the depreciation of the Russian ruble. Belarusian problems stem from the same source. The drop in trade with the neighbors, and overstocking. The year of cheap oil seems to be over but the future is unlikely to be favorable.

On January 1 the Treaty on the Eurasian Economic Union entered into force. On January 2, Armenia joined the initial EEU members - Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. Then, on August 12, Kyrgyzstan did the same. The EEU signed an agreement on free trade zone with Vietnam. China, Israel, India and the European Union are also mulling signing the same document.

The EEU is now like a 1 year old baby. When it grows a little older, it is going to give the member countries GDP growth by a quarter, cheaper goods and higher wages. For now the Union still remains at the stage of transition from economic to political integration.

On January 7 there was the first of the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015: the Islamists shot Charlie Hebdo editors leaving 12 people dead, including two policemen.  The victims were mourned but then quickly forgotten.

The November 13 attacks turned out to be a complete surprise for France. They killed 130 people. And the country declared war on terror immediately, sending to Syria planes and an aircraft carrier.

The Ukrainian civil war forced the presidents of France, Russia, Ukraine and the German Chancellor to gather in Minsk in February. Alexander Lukashenko did his job creating the most favorable conditions for the leaders, who, after a sleepless night, came up with the so-called Minsk Agreements. Peace came, maybe a thin one, but in any case it is better than war, which by February had claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus President:
It takes months, and even years to resolve questions of war and peace. And here the leaders were able to reach an agreement to suspend the war in just 15 hours.

All year, the migration crisis has been underway in Europe. in April, 400 refugees died in a shipwreck but this was only a passing episode. Migrants rushed to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea and by land, through the Balkans. There are now about a million refugees in Germany. For France, this has become a temporary problem, with the refugees often clashing with police.

In September, there began the Summit on Sustainable Development, also known as the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly. Migration crisis, war, poverty and many other issues were raised in the speech of the Belarusian President.

Alexander Lukashenko:
I cannot ignore the crisis of the international structures. In general there is a feeling that their role in recent years has been the following: they have become a place of disputes between states, and often a means of pressure on individual countries that did not please the world's major powers.
I am deeply convinced that the United Nations should not be used to demonstrate someone's power.

September 30, Russian aircraft began attacking the various indigenous terrorists, primarily ISIL, from the Khmeimim airbase in Syria's Latakia. It is still not clear whether this resulted in the plane crash, in which 224 people travelling from Sharm el Sheikh to St. Petersburg died. The ISIL declared themselves the mastermind behind the attack. Then another Russian plane, Su-24, was shot down, this time by Turkish fighter jets. It crashed on the Syrian territory.

Russian and French air forces are bombing terrorists in Syria, while US forces are acting in Iraq and will be backed by some other countries, including Germany.

Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation:
We will conduct our air strikes and support the Syrian army's offensive movement as long as the Syrian army conducts these operations.

Belarus

The most important of the Belarusian events were the October 11 presidential elections, in which President Alexander Lukashenko won a resounding victory. The advantage was overwhelming: 83.5% of the votes against the 4.5% of the nearest competitor. The international community seemed to have no complaints about the election process. In any case, the EU sanctions against Belarus were later suspended.

2015 will be remembered by the brilliant achievements of Belarusian artists and athletes.

Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Artists Valentina Shoba from Grodno and sculptor Sergey Partyankov from Gomel wion the Taylor Prize. Finally, UNESCO bestowed Victor Hugo medals on outstanding Belarusian artists Tamara Nizhnikova, Gennady Ovsyannikov and Rostislav Yankovsky.

MORE: Recent cultural achievements of Belarusians

Darya Domracheva won the World Cup Biathlon. Belarusian athletes also took 43 medals, including 10 gold, at the European games. At the Athletics World Championships Marina Arzamasova and Alina Talai won golds. Finally, at the rowing world championships, Team Belarus collected five gold medals.

Alexander Lukashenko speaking in the UN