Sandra Kalniete: Compromise on political prisoners' issue not possible
A real breakthrough in relations between Belarus and the European Union is impossible without political prisoners’ release.
Sandra Kalniete, a Member of the European Parliament for the European People's Party, stated that in her interview to BelaPAN last week in Minsk.
The visit was motivated by the need to review and assess the current state and prospects of relations between the EU and Belarus, because, according to Kalniete, "there are geopolitical changes in the region and Belarus has played a constructive role as a platform for peace talks" on Ukraine.
During the visit she met with officials, opposition representatives, civil right activists and relatives of political prisoners.
In particular, Kalniete met with Deputy Foreign Minister Alena Kupchyna, Assistant to the President Valery Bryliou, the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the "Council of the Republic" on regional policy and local self-government Sviatlana Herasimovich and the head of the Standing Commission of the "Chamber of Representatives" on International Affairs, Mikalai Samaseika. "During these meetings we concluded that a real breakthrough in relations between Belarus and the EU is possible only after release of political prisoners. For us it is a matter of principle. No compromise on this issue is possible, the MEP said.
She says the government stated there were no political prisoners in Belarus, and those who were considered as political prisoners, were convicted on criminal cases.
Besides, they discussed the upcoming presidential elections in Belarus this year and parliamentary ones in 2016. "We emphasized that during "elections" all international election standards must be respected and the opposition must be heard. We expect violence will not be used against protesters, as it happened in 2010", Kalniete said.
Speaking about the meeting with relatives of political prisoners, the MEP said: "We were mostly listening to stories about a hard life of Belarusian prisoners. And, of course, we spoke them out words of our support".
Kalniete said that the unity of the opposition was crucial issue both for voters and the opposition.
"I'm satisfied with the results," Kalniete said. "We have got a clear understanding of a difficult geopolitical situation of Belarus, in which it found itself sandwiched between Putin's pressure and a difficult economic situation, and it is looking for ways of mending dialogue with the EU".