Belarus Opposition Lobbies E.U. to Adopt New Strategy


BERLIN - The opposition in Belarus, determined to continue the pro-democracy movement despite the violent crackdown after the presidential election on Dec. 19, began lobbying the European Union on Tuesday to adopt a new strategy: cutting contacts with the leadership while strengthening nongovernmental organizations.

The appeal was made in Berlin by 16 democratic movements whose leaders have embarked on a diplomatic offensive in European capitals including Berlin; Brussels; Prague; Vilnius, Lithuania; and Warsaw. The aim is to persuade governments and the European Union to adopt a more differentiated policy toward Belarus.

"A new policy is needed by Europe if it places so much store on human rights and values," said Aleksandr V. Kozulin, an opposition presidential candidate during the 2006 elections who was later imprisoned for two years.

Eva Neklyaeva, daughter of one of the defeated presidential candidates last month, also spoke at a meeting organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the German-Belarusian Society. Her father, Vladimir Neklyaev, was beaten by police officers on election day, sent to a hospital and then dragged to prison, where his lawyers have seen him only twice.

"Europe must adopt concrete measures," she said. "There should be no dialogue with the regime until all the people are out of prison. The values of realpolitik should not outweigh the values of human rights and freedom."

Sergei Kalyakin, leader of a leftist group of Belarussian parties, said Europe could adopt policies that would hit the regime but benefit ordinary people. "A lot could be done by reducing the fees for Belarussians wanting to travel to the West, supporting students who because of the political activities cannot continue their studies and are being forced to go abroad, and supporting independent radio and television," he said.

This is the first time that the major nongovernmental organizations and civil society movements have banded together to oppose what they call the "rising terror and repressions by the authorities."

Until the presidential election last month, which the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe deemed flawed, the fractious opposition movements failed to agree on a candidate to oppose President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994. He was re-elected to a fourth term.

But this week, the opposition established the National Coordination Council of the Democratic Opposition to speak with one voice within Belarus and in Europe to put pressure on the authorities in Minsk.

The main goals of the council are to campaign for the release of all activists imprisoned on politically motivated grounds, to organize aid for their families and to disseminate as much information as possible to Belarussian citizens and to the international community.

The Polish government is already pursuing such a strategy by increasing its support for civil society and nongovernmental organizations while isolating the top leadership in Minsk, Polish officials said last week.

It is extending its Belarussian-language television to Belarus, opening its universities to Belarussian students who can no longer complete their studies back home because of their political activities and establishing a center in Warsaw for the Belarussian opposition.

On Wednesday the Belarussian foreign minister, Sergei N. Martynov, is scheduled to hold a 30-minute meeting in Brussels with Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief. Ms. Ashton "will repeat what the European Union has been saying since the elections and call for the release of all political prisoners," said Maja Kocijancic, who is the spokeswoman for Ms. Ashton and added that the meeting was at Mr. Martynov's request.


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