Belarus should do its homework if it wants inclusion in the Eastern Partnership

Laima Andrikiene MEP and Christopher Beazley ME

ANDRIKIENE, Laima LiucijaIn a meeting with the leaders of the Belarus Democratic Opposition, Laima Andrikiene MEP stated: "European values including human rights are fundamentals of the EU. EU dialogue with the Belarus authorities without civic society participation is unacceptable. There should be no 'carte blanche' for the Lukashenka regime at the Prague Spring Summit".

On the invitation of the Lithuanian MEP Laima Andrikiene, the prominent leaders of the Belarus Democratic Opposition Aliaksandr Kozulin, former presidential candidate and former political prisoner, and Anatoly Lebedzko, Chairman of the United Civil Party of Belarus, are on an official visit to the European Parliament in Strasbourg from 9-12 March. Following the European Parliament Delegation visit to Minsk on 20 February 2009, Mr Kozulin and Mr Lebedzko addressed the European Parliament Baltic Europe Intergroup yesterday, March 10.

Mr Lebedzko stressed that the current situation in Belarus is the same as before and regretted that Europe has accepted Mr Lukashenka's rules to have a dialogue without any conditions and without the civil society representatives as the mediators. Three political prisoners in Belarus were released but five more were jailed; two independent newspapers are free for subscription; however 13 newspapers are still forbidden. The opposition leaders recalled the oppression against the peaceful demonstrations on 14 and 16 February in Minsk.

The leaders of the Belarus Democratic Opposition have called on the European Union to emphasise respect for human rights and fundamental European values in the dialogue with Belarus and not to invite Mr Lukashenka to the Prague Summit on 7 May 2009, where the EU Eastern Partnership Programme will be launched.

"Mr Lukashenka would understand it as an indulgence of his repressions over the past 15 years and as a 'carte blanche' for the future. The EU must not lift the sanctions on the Belarus authorities for another 6 months and set clear goals for the regime to achieve during this period. Only then, if the required progress is achieved, should Belarus be included in the Eastern Partnership Programme", emphasised Lebedzko.

"Europeans should ask themselves: how should they continue the dialogue with Belarus? Are they going to be led by the cruel pragmatism and economic interests or will they stand for the principals of human rights, democracy and fundamental European values. Lukashenka's presence in Prague would be unacceptable", concluded former presidential candidate and political prisoner Aliaksandr Kozulin.

"Human rights abuses; imprisonment of democratic opposition activists and police brutality in the breaking-up of peaceful demonstrations are unacceptable to the EU; however, we wish to help the Belarus people in times of serious economic difficulty. The Intergroup was unanimous in expressing its support for these two visitors, and everyone present was grateful for having the opportunity to hear them speak", said Christopher Beazley MEP, Chairman of the Baltic Europe Intergroup.

Laima Andrikiene MEP, who organised the Belarus visit and the return visit of Mr Kozulin and Mr Lebedzko, and Christopher Beazley MEP, together with all other members present, undertook to support Mr Kozulin and Mr Lebedzko in their bid to speak with Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner about the proposal to waive visa restrictions of Belarusian politicians and public servants.

For further information:

Laima Liucija Andrikiene MEP, Tel: +33-3-88-177858

Christopher Beazley MEP, Tel: +33-3-88177226

Zivile Didzgalviene, EPP-ED Press Service, Tel: +32-475-751627

Notes to Editors:

The EPP-ED Group is the largest political group in the European Parliament with 288 Members from all 27 Member States



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