MEPs spark security alert with Belarus gesture

By Lucia Kubosova

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - An appeal in the European Parliament for lit candles as a gesture of solidarity towards democratic forces in Belarus has sparked a security alert.

Three Slovak centre-right MEPs on Thursday (16 March) called on their colleagues in the Strasbourg plenary to light candles in their offices, houses and apartments, ahead of the country's presidential elections on Sunday.

Zita Plestinska reminded them that several Belarusians have been using the same symbol every sixteenth day of the month, as their silent protest against the authoritarian regime by president Alexander Lukashenko.

She said "candle light symbolizes hope for a new life and a new beginning, as well as hope for freedom and democracy. It would be a beautiful gesture of European solidarity with Belarus."

The email with the same message was sent out to all the staff of the European Parliament.

However, just a half an hour later it was followed by a warning of the Parliament's security unit.

It informed "all users of our buildings that the rules on safety [prohibit] the lighting of candles in all rooms in the European Parliament."

Whatever symbols the candle flames are meant to represent, the security people insist they are too much of "a potential fire risk."