Belarus: EU cares for the people of neighbouring states, in this case Belarus including its Polish community. Jacek Protasiewicz MEP

During a conference in the European Parliament on 'The EU and Belarus Six Months After: Achievements and Challenges Ahead' the EPP-ED Group was represented by Jacek Protasiewicz MEP, Chairman of the EP Delegation for Relations with Belarus, who welcomed the Belarusian visitors and highlighted the main aspects of the current situation in Belarus as seen from the perspective of the European Union, in particular the European Parliament.

"Since January 2008, when I was elected as Chairman of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Belarus, the situation in this country has changed dynamically. The most vivid example of this is the release of all political prisoners in August 2008, including Alexander Kozulin."

However, not everything can be described as a dynamic progress, according to Mr Protasiewicz. On the one hand, the last parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2008 failed to meet the expectations and standards of the international community. On the other hand, the economic crisis hit all European countries, Belarus in particular. Mr Protasiewicz emphasised: "In order to overcome the effects of the crisis, Belarus needs cooperation from the international community and the support of the European institutions and banks. The EU, in this regard, is concerned not only for the well-being of its own citizens, but also for the peoples of its neighbours. In this case, the Belarusian people".

In this regard, Mr Protasiewicz has underlined 4 core areas which were mentioned in EP Resolutions and broadly supported by the EPP-ED Group which should be changed:

* Abuse of criminal law

* Adjustment of the electoral law to the OSCE standards - the international organisation to which Belarus belongs

* Reforms in the media law in order to secure freedom of expression and independence of the media

* Ensuring freedom of assembly and freedom of association

20 weeks of observation of the 6-month visa ban, though showing obvious progress in some areas, has shown many negative developments, such as:

* People involved in civic activities are still facing restriction of freedom

* Some media have been denied registration

* Some organisations are either denied registration or are facing administrative or other kinds of pressure.

"In this context, the situation of Viasna, the Human Rights Centre, is especially worrying. It has been denied registration. Also worrying is the situation of the Union of Poles where, on the eve of its forthcoming Congress on 15 March, its leadership will face high administrative and Special Services pressure".

For further information:

Office of Jacek Protasiewicz MEP, Tel: +32-2-2845743

Atilla Agardi, EPP-ED Press Service, Tel: +32-475-750272

Katarzyna Klaus, EPP-ED Press Service, Tel: +32-484-138359



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