MEPs slam Minsk over human rights violations

By Joanna Sopinska

The European Parliament condemned, on 24 February, the harassment by Belarusian authorities of the activists of the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB), an independent organisation representing some 400,000 minority Poles living in the country (see Europolitics3924). MEPs urged Minsk to stop violating the principles of democracy and warned against further repressions. The debate on the situation in Belarus was conducted on the request of Parliament President Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister. "The attack on ZPB is an attack on all democratic opposition in Belarus; it is a violation of human rights, minority rights and freedom of non-governmental organisations," Buzek commented.

Speaking on behalf of the EU Presidency, Spanish Secretary of State for the EU Diego Lopez Garrido deplored the worsening of the human rights situation in Belarus. "There is a lack of freedom of expression and freedom of association in that country, increasing pressure on the media, legislation is increasingly adopted to restrain internet access and use, pressure is brought on opposition activist - all of this quite clearly points to a degradation in Belarus," said Garrido.

Kristalina Georgieva, the commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response, echoed Garrido's remarks. She described the situation as "a very serious matter of backtracking on the advancement of democracy in Belarus in the last years," insisting at the same time that the EU "must remain engaged with Belarus".

The EP debate was not followed by a vote on the resolution as the Socialists insisted the EP first send a fact-finding mission to Belarus to assess the situation there. The resolution is expected to be voted on in March.


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