European Parliament's rapporteur recommends suspension of travel bans against Belarusian officials

2013 2013-05-22T11:14:06+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en
In his draft report, which is expected to be debated by the European Parliament this fall, Mr. Paleckis says that the sanctions should be suspended “with a view to broadening the main and essential diplomatic communication channel with Belarus, also in view of the Eastern Partnership summit [to be held in Vilnius in November].”
Mr. Paleckis acknowledges that no free and fair elections have been conducted in Belarus since 1994. EU-Belarus relations gained a positive momentum between 2008 and 2010, but the brutal crackdown following the December 2010 presidential election led to their deterioration, he says.
“Recent restrictive legislative amendments let to further repression against civil society, including human right defenders, independent media and defense lawyers,” Mr. Paleckis says. “However, an improvement of the situation of human rights was discernible in 2012.”
Mr. Paleckis recommends the EU to use Lithuania’s EU presidency in the latter half of 2013 and the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius as “unique opportunities to improve relations with Belarus, including with a view to restarting the political dialogue on, inter alia, democratic reforms and respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The also recommends that the EU draw up a strategic roadmap that would eventually lead to the “resumption of negotiations on a new comprehensive agreement; in the same vein, consult the European Parliament on the inclusion of new proposals concerning inter-parliamentary relations, both bilaterally and within the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly.”
Mr. Paleckis says that the EU should “increase contacts with officials in order to foster openness of mind towards the EU and to enhance EU-Belarus cooperation; encourage the authorities to fully participate in the [European] Dialogue on Modernization [with Belarus] aimed at developing a competitive economy, a pluralistic society and the rule of law; encourage civil society and the political opposition to increase their involvement in this Dialogue and further support it through enhanced financial assistance and expertise.”
The European Union should use all available policy options with the view to ensuring that Belarus “fully implements Electoral Code reforms on the basis of OSCE/ODIHR recommendations; lifts all restrictions imposed on the democratic opposition; fully modernizes the judiciary in line with international standards; works towards the abolition of the death penalty; reforms its Criminal Code and in particular article 193.1 on participation in unregistered organizations; allows access for representatives of the relevant international organisations and members of families to all Belarusian prisons; removes any existing obstacles to NGO registration; guaranties effective freedom of and access to the media; creates an independent and fully functional ombudsman; ensures equal opportunities for, and the inclusion and non-discrimination of, all minorities.”
Mr. Paleckis recommends making use of the “constructive EU-Belarus technical dialogue on macroeconomic developments and financial issues to achieve a credible commitment by Belarus to gradual macroeconomic and structural reforms including gradual and socially responsible privatisation of state-owned enterprises; price, trade and banking system liberalisation; the development of an appropriate social safety net and the fight against corruption.”
Mr. Paleckis says that the EU should “encourage Belarus to implement ILO recommendations, in particular concerning the freedom of association, registration and activities of independent trade unions.”
Belarus should be urged to “enforce the highest international safety standards for the construction of nuclear power plants,” he says.
Mr. Paleckis suggests that the EU should step up technical and financial support for civil society organizations, independent NGOs, independent media, human rights defenders and trade unions in Belarus.
The EU should also “consider unilaterally facilitating the issuing of visas and reducing their cost from EUR 60 to an affordable level for Belarusian citizens,” he says.
Justas Paleckis stayed in Belarus between March 18 and March 21 to draw up his report. He had meetings with both government officials and representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations.
The Belarusian foreign ministry expressed hope that his report would help Belarus and the European Union step up their dialogue.