Message of the European Union to the Belarusian People

2006 2006-11-22T10:00:00+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

“What the European Union could bring to Belarus”

The European Union has a special relationship with its closest neighbours around its

eastern and southern borders. This is called the European Neighbourhood Policy.

Through this policy, the EU works to support the political, economic and social reform

processes of its neighbours, and to draw them closer to the EU, notably through gradual

economic integration. This will allow for the further extension of a zone of prosperity,

stability and security, thus sharing with the people of Belarus the benefits the EU (which

includes three of Belarus’ neighbours -Latvia, Lithuania and Poland) has built over the

last 50 years.

The EU is already working with Belarus’ neighbours and partners and would of course

like to build such a relationship with Belarus. This would contribute to reinforcing

Belarusian links with countries that are part of the European Neighbourhood Policy

already, such as Ukraine and Moldova. At the same time, this would fully respect

traditional Belarusian relationships with our other common neighbour, Russia, which is

also a strategic partner for the EU.

What the EU offers to Belarus

When Belarus becomes a full participant in our neighbourhood policy1, and thus a full

partner of the EU, the EU would be able to help to improve quality of life of the

Belarusian people.

To this end, the EU and Belarus would work together to achieve the following

improvements that would directly benefit the people of Belarus:

• easier travel by Belarusian citizens to EU countries;

• increased cross-border cooperation, allowing greater cooperation on economic

development, environmental protection and border management;

• boosting the Belarusian economy, supporting the development of small and medium

enterprises and preparing Belarusian enterprises for further opportunities in the

European market. This would create more jobs and provide better perspectives also

for the younger generations; this could be achieved through economic reforms that

would make Belarus more attractive for foreign investors;

• improve the provision of healthcare and education and of support for the vulnerable

in society;

• making the Belarusian public administration and local government more efficient in

order to provide the people of Belarus with better services;

1 In order to fully benefit from the European Neighbourhood Policy, a Partnership and Cooperation

Agreement between Belarus and the EU would need to be ratified. Such an Agreement was in fact signed in

1996 but its ratification was frozen due to the lack of respect for democracy and human rights in Belarus.

• reform of the legal and judicial system to ensure equal rights to all. This requires

independent judges who work in a fair and independent manner to protect the rights

of all citizens and the development of civil society;

• greater economic opportunities for Belarus and improved living conditions for its

citizens through the development and modernisation of transport and energy

networks. This would improve Belarus’ road and rail links to its neighbours as part of

a European-wide network, thus facilitating travel and the transport of goods;

• improve the quality of the environment: water quality, waste treatment, continued

support to deal with the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster;

• participation in Europe-wide cooperation on environment, health, food safety

standards, working conditions, aviation safety, judicial cooperation etc. through

participation in European programmes and agencies.

We would also be able to develop more and better contacts between the EU and

Belarus:

• We would simplify contacts across the border and make border-crossing easier for

local people through cooperation with Belarus’ neighbours;

• Belarusian cities and communities could work together with cities and communities

in the EU , exchanging information and experiences on how to better serve the

population;

• We would offer Belarusian students more scholarships to study in EU universities.

We would encourage regular and long-term exchanges and lasting relationships

between universities in Belarus and in the EU at all levels, including both

administrative and academic;

• We could have a close dialogue and cooperation with Belarus’ democratically-elected

leaders and civil servants and experts on a wide range of issues, domestic or

international, of importance to us all. Belarusian views would be heard more widely

on the international stage;

• We could more actively involve representatives of Belarus – at national, regional or

local level – as well as Belarusian officials, academics, scientists etc., in working

together to tackle issues of common interest, sharing and exchanging our expertise

and know-how on e.g. economy and trade, modern governance, the rule of law,

information, education, tourism, culture, research, energy, health, social issues,

environment, transport and communication etc.

We would have deeper economic and trade relations and more business

opportunities:

• Greater access for Belarusian products, provided they meet our standards, to the EU

market of 480 million consumers, which would help to increase Belarus’ trade and

subsequently enhance the country’s further economic development;

• Looking in particular at the Belarusian textile sector, better possibilities for textile

products from Belarus to enter the European market;

• When Belarus joins the World Trade Organisation, this should increase market

opportunities for Belarusian products across the world, including in the EU.

In order to support Belarus’ economic and social development programmes, we would

significantly increase European financial assistance, and we would offer our valuable

experience in reforms.

Belarus has, up to now, received far less assistance than its neighbours. However, this

situation would change and Belarus would receive assistance comparable to that of its

neighbours, if the Belarusian government takes significant steps towards democratisation.

What can the Belarusian government do?

Unfortunately, at this stage, the policies pursued by President Lukashenko’s authoritarian

regime prevent us from offering Belarus full participation in our neighbourhood policy.

The EU cannot offer to deepen its relations with a regime which denies its citizens their

fundamental democratic rights. The people of Belarus are the first victims of the

isolation imposed by its authorities and will be the first to reap the benefits on offer to a

democratic Belarus

The EU wishes to share with its neighbours the prosperity, stability and security which its

own citizens enjoy. This requires political, economic and administrative reforms from our

partner countries. To support our neighbours in these efforts, the EU offers political,

economic and trade opportunities as well as financial assistance to countries which

respect human rights, democracy, and the rule of law. These are values to which Belarus

has already committed itself, of its own free will, as a member of the United Nations, the

OSCE and other organisations, but which the current Belarusian government in practice

does not respect. To build the deeper relationship which we wish to have between the EU

and the Belarusian people, to end the self-imposed isolation which the Belarusian

government has brought upon its country’s citizens, we ask that the Belarusian authorities

should, first and foremost:

• respect the right of the people of Belarus to elect their leaders democratically –

their right to hear all views and see all election candidates; the right of opposition

candidates and supporters to campaign without harassment, prosecution or

imprisonment; independent observation of the elections, including by Belarusian nongovernmental

organisations; their freedom to express their will and have their vote

fairly counted;

• respect the right of the people of Belarus to independent information, and to

express themselves freely e.g. by allowing journalists to work without harassment or

prosecution, not shutting down newspapers or preventing their distribution;

• respect the rights of non-governmental organisations as a vital part of a healthy

democracy – by no longer hindering their legal existence, harassing and prosecuting

members of NGOs, and allowing them to receive international assistance;

• release all political prisoners – members of democratic opposition parties, members

of NGOs and ordinary citizens arrested at peaceful demonstrations or meetings;

• properly and independently investigate or review the cases of disappeared

persons2;

• ensure the right of the people of Belarus to an independent and impartial judicial

system – with judges who are not subject to political pressure, and without arbitrary

and unfounded criminal prosecution or politically-motivated judgements such as

locking-up citizens who peacefully express their views;

• end arbitrary arrest and detention, and ill-treatment;

• respect the rights and freedoms of those Belarusian citizens who belong to national

minorities;

• respect the rights of the people of Belarus as workers – their right to join a trade

union and the right of trade unions to work to defend the people’s rights;

• respect the rights of the people of Belarus as entrepreneurs to operate without

excessive intervention by the authorities;

• join the other nations of Europe in abolishing the death penalty;

• make use of the support which the OSCE, the EU and other organisations offer to

Belarus to help it respect the rights of its people.

The EU stands ready to renew its relationship with Belarus and its people, as soon as the

Belarusian government demonstrates respect for democratic values and for the basic

rights of the Belarusian people.

Meanwhile, the EU will continue to provide funding for Belarus to assist regions affected

by the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, or to support the fight against human

trafficking, in particular the trafficking of women, across European borders.

At the same time, the EU will continue to work to give the people of Belarus access to

independent information in order to allow them to hear all sides of the arguments before

drawing their own conclusions. The EU will continue to support the written press and the

broadcasting of independent TV and radio programmes to Belarus. The EU will also

welcome and provide financial support for Belarusian students studying in European

universities.

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