MINSK, 7 July 2003 - International and Belarusian experts meet in Minsk today to discuss ways to reform Belarus' population registration system. With this meeting the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), together with the European Commission, launches an assistance programme aimed at replacing the rigid Soviet-era registration system, or "propiska", with a modern set-up ensuring freedom of movement of the citizens of Belarus.
"We welcome very much the willingness of the Belarusian authorities to start the reform process now," said Vladimir Shkolnikov, the head of the ODIHR Migration/Freedom of Movement Unit. "In the old system, citizens are not allowed to choose freely a place of residence without consent by the authorities. This not only runs counter to fundamental OSCE commitments on freedom of movement, but also creates serious problems for public administration in almost every sphere of life."
"For example, people who change their place within the country often experience problems with obtaining social benefits, or even getting a job due to deficiencies of the propiska system," he explained.
The meeting, organized with the Center for Legislative Drafting under the President of Belarus and the OSCE Office in Minsk, is attended by Belarusian experts as well as participants from OSCE countries that have fully or partially abolished the propiska system in recent years, including Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine.
Over the past years, the ODIHR has assisted several former Soviet republics with the development of efficient registration systems in line with international standards.