Europe expects system changes from Belarus

2009 2009-03-10T20:37:27+0200 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

Delivering a speech in the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy, stated that more political reforms are expected from the Belarusian regime.

On 12-13 March the European Commissioner plans to visit Belarus. Over the last month it is to become the second visit to Belarus of a high-ranking Brussels official. In February Minks was visited by the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, RFE/RL informs.

The European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said: "We do see the chance to get Belarus closer to us and we would like to do a lot."

Speaking about chances of Belarus’ participation in the Eastern Partnership program, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner stressed that for that to happen, the EU would like to see more political reforms. Now, she believes, this process in the country could be defined by the words "two steps forward, one step back".

As said by the European Commissioner, Belarusian President Lukashenka has been walking a narrow line between keeping good relations with traditional ally Russia and developing better ties with the West, especially after a row with Moscow in 2006 over gas prices.

"We are content to see that political prisoners have been released, but we are not content at seeing that others now have been again circumscribed and also put under arrest," Ferrero-Waldner said.

"On the other hand, some NGOs (non-governmental organizations) have now been registered, some newspapers now can be printed – opposition newspapers. All of these are good steps (but) we want to see more systemic changes," she said.

She said next week members of the EU are to adopt the final version of the Eastern Partnership program.

As we have informed, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy stated that to become a part of the Eastern Partnership, Belarus is to fulfill a few conditions of the EU.

Belarus could qualify for the scheme if it pushes ahead with democratic reforms.

The EU also expects Belarus not to recognize independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. In case the country would recognize their independence, it would be backward movement in the cooperation with the EU and the Eastern Partnership initiative.