EP resolution on Belarus: No concessions in democracy matters

2009 2009-01-15T19:20:42+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

The European Parliament has adopted a provisional resolution on the political situation in Belarus.

The resolution was adopted by 551 votes in favour, 15 against and 31 abstentions.

Here is the text of the resolution, published on European Parliament’s website.

The EU strategy towards Belarus: MEPs stress the need for greater democratisation

MEPs insist on five conditions to improve relations between Belarus and the EU in a resolution adopted in Strasbourg. Freedom for political prisoners, media NGOs and political associations are the main points underlined by the European Parliament to renew the period of six months during which travel restrictions imposed on certain Belarus Government officials have been lifted.

In order to significantly improve relations with the EU, the European Parliament points out five conditions in a resolution adopted by 551 votes in favour, 15 against and 31 abstentions. According to MEPs, Belarus should:

(1) remain a country without political prisoners,

(2) guarantee freedom of expression for the media,

(3) continue to cooperate with the OSCE on reform of the electoral law,

(4) improve conditions for the work of NGOs and

(5) guarantee freedom of assembly and political association.

In October 2008, the Council had decided that the travel restrictions imposed on certain Belarus Government officials would not apply for a period of six months, which may be renewed, with the exception of those involved in the disappearances that occurred in 1999 and 2000 and of the Chair of the Central Electoral Commission.

In order to end the country's self-imposed isolation from the rest of Europe, MEPs urge the Belarusian government to respect human rights by (1) making changes to the Belarus Criminal Code, (2) refraining from threatening criminal prosecution, (3) eliminating all obstacles to the proper registration of NGOs in Belarus, (4) improving the treatment of and respect for national minorities.

Belarusian democratic opposition should be a part of a dialog aimed at phased strengthening of relations between the EU and Belarus.

Freedom of political association and media

Parliament acknowledges that some efforts have been made by the Belarusian authorities, in particular the decision to register the ‘For Freedom’ movement headed by former Belarusian presidential candidate Aliaksandr Milinkevich.

MEPs welcome the allowance of the printing and distribution of the two independent newspapers,Narodnaia Volia and Nasha Niva. Otherwise, they point out that there are still 13 independent newspapers awaiting registration. MEPs also welcome the decision by the Belarusian Government to discuss the international Internet media standards and to consult the Belarusian Association of Journalists. They ask for financial support to the independent Belarusian television channel Belsat and the official registration of this channel.

Political prisoners and death penalty

Parliament welcomes the release of political prisoners in Belarus but also criticises the fact that some other activists remain subject to various forms of restrictions on their freedom.

MEPs also condemn the fact that Belarus is the only country in Europe which still has the death penalty and call on the authorities to respect freedom of religion.

Cost of visas and ‘European Humanities University’ in exile

Further steps should be taken to liberalise visa procedures for Belarusian citizens, especially by reducing the cost of visas to enter the Schengen Area and simplifying the procedure for obtaining them.

The European Parliament deplores the repeated decisions by the Belarusian authorities to refuse entrance visas to Members of the European Parliament and national parliamentarians.

MEPs also call on the Council and Commission to urge the Belarusian Government to enable the ‘European Humanities University’ in exile in Vilnius to return legally to Belarus and re-establish itself in Minsk.

Parliament urges the Czech Presidency to make it a priority to negotiate an EU-wide agreement with the Belarusian authorities allowing children to travel from Belarus to any EU Member State organising such recuperation programmes.

The European Parliament urged the Belarusian authorities to follow international security standards when constructing a new nuclear power station, and ratify an additional protocol to a comprehensive safeguards agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency.