Buzek condemns Minsk's crackdown on Polish minority

By Joanna Sopinska

The President of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek, has strongly urged the Belarusian regime to "reconsider and stop" violating human rights in the country, following the crackdown on a Polish minority group - the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB). "The Belarusian regime, just across the border from the EU, cannot be allowed to harass national minorities and arrest NGO activists," said Buzek in a statement, on 16 February.

On 15 February, Belarusian police arrested the leader of the ZPB, Angelika Borys, along with some 40 other activists on their way to a rally in Valozhyn, in the West of the country.

Buzek, a former Polish prime minister, warned that if human rights continue to suffer the EU's relations with Belarus would be put on ice. "The Belarusian authorities must consider how much the country can benefit from good relations with the EU and how much it might lose by violating the principles of democracy," Buzek said.

The call follows a strong condemnation of the crackdown on the Polish minority group from Warsaw. In response, Poland decided to close its borders to individuals involved in repressing the Union of Poles in Belarus.

The authoritarian regime of President Alexander Lukashenko recognises a pro-government organisation as the only legal representative of Belarus' entire Polish minority. Poland, meanwhile, backs an independent group, the ZPB. Ethnic Poles make up an estimated 400,000 of Belarus' total population of ten million people.

Buzek added he would encourage the European Parliament to hold a debate and call for a resolution on the situation in Belarus. "The European Parliament cares about the democratic forces in Belarus. There is now time for a European debate on this issue in the European Parliament," he said.


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