Belarus’ efforts to uphold democratic values are “insufficient”, MEPs say
MEPs say that Belarus’ progress in upholding democratic values is “insufficient” in a resolution voted on Thursday. They note that Belarus is taking new political prisoners, harassing the opposition, using capital punishment, and failing to address safety concerns about its first nuclear power plant, being built in Ostrovets, European Parliament's News Service said.
MEPs stress that “since 1994 no free and fair elections have been conducted in Belarus” and that its attempts to make progress during 2015 presidential and 2016 parliamentary elections were insufficient. Key sectors of the Belarusian economy are still under state control, no new political party has been registered since 2000, new ways to harass or even jail the opposition are being found, they add.
The resolution calls on Belarus to stop these developments, reiterates the European Parliament’s commitment to support the pro-democratic aspirations of its people and calls on the European External Action Service and the EU Commission “to continue and strengthen support for civil society organisations in Belarus and abroad.”
MEPs said that the Belarusian observer groups (Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections and Right to Choose-2016) condemned the latest elections for not meeting a number of key international standards and not being a credible reflection of the will of Belarusian citizens. They "collected concrete evidence of massive nationwide efforts to inflate turnout totals during the five-day early vote period (6-10 September 2016) and on election day (11 September 2016)," MEPs said.
The European Parliament "notes that in the newly elected parliament there will be one representative of the opposition party and one of the nongovernmental sector; considers these, however, to be political appointments, rather than a result of the electoral outcome; notes that consideration of the future legislative proposals submitted by these two parliamentarians will serve as a litmus test of the political intentions of the authorities behind their appointments."
The Resolution calls on the Belarusian authorities to "resume work without delay on a comprehensive electoral reform as part of the broader democratisation process and in cooperation with international partners; stresses the need to introduce the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations in due time before the municipal elections of March 2018 and for them to be observed by domestic and international observers; emphasises that this is key to achieving the desired progress in EU-Belarus relations."
MEPs calls on the Belarusian Government to "repeal without delay Article 193/1 of the Criminal Code, which penalises the organisation of and participation in the activities of nonregistered public associations and organisations, and to allow the full, free and unhampered legal functioning of public associations and organisations; draws the Commission’s attention in particular to the fact that currently, as a result of the application of Article 193/1 and other restrictive measures, there are over 150 Belarusian NGOs registered in Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere."
Stop capital punishment
MEPs urge Belarus, the only country in Europe still applying capital punishment, to “join a global moratorium on execution of the death penalty as a first step towards permanent abolition.” The Belarusian Supreme Court confirmed four death penalties in 2016, they note.
Nuclear safety concerns
MEPs are also concerned about the safety of building work at the first-ever Belarusian nuclear power plant, in Ostrovets, less than 50 km from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius. They call for “international supervision of the implementation of this project”, to ensure it meets all nuclear and environment safety standards and urge the Council and the Commission to use their levers to press Belarus to conduct stress-tests on its nuclear site.
The resolution on Belarus was passed by 468 votes to 21, with 93 abstentions.
See full text of the Resolution.