Marking the 93rd anniversary of the proclamation of independence of the 1918 Belarusian National Republic, the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, stated:
"Belarusians should be able to mark this anniversary not in exile, but in their own country. Instead, they have to withstand the repression of an authoritative and illegitimate dictator.
Today serves as a reminder to all Belarusians of the deep roots of their democratic aspirations. Change eventually will come to Belarus as it has come to the shores of Northern Africa. The greater the repressive measures, all the more inevitable this change will be.
Today, we should also remember those who have been suffering the arbitrary treatment of the regime and strongly condemn their political prosecution. Zmitser Dashkevich, the leader of an opposition youth movement Malady Front, and his colleague Eduard Lobaw have been this week sentenced to two and five years respectively. Ivan Shyla and Ryhor Astapenya, Malady Front activists, have just been given jail sentences for demonstrating in support of their friends.
At the same time today we should pay tribute to Belarusian activists Alexander Molchanov, Dmitriy Hovik, Alexander Atroschenkov and Vasily Parfenkov who have earlier received jail sentences from three to four years. Many others face trials. This is unacceptable.
I therefore welcome the EU's decision this week to extend the travel ban and asset freeze list of Belarusian officials who have been involved in the crackdown of the civil society and rigging of the presidential elections. But this is not enough. As the European Parliament argued in its latest 10 March resolution, if the situation does not improve the EU should consider further measures such as smart and targeted economic sanctions on Belarusian government-owned companies and suspending Belarus from the Eastern Partnership program. At the same time, the EU should deliver on the promise to substantially increase financial aid to the civil society, NGOs and independent media and to take concrete steps towards visa facilitation for the Belarusian citizens without any further delay.
As the current attention of the international community is rightly focused on the historic events unfolding in our Southern neighbourhood, we should not lose our sight of the developments in the East. Our choice should not be between South and East, our choice should be supporting the call for freedom and democracy everywhere.
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Robert A. Golanski
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Mobile: +32 498 98 33 10
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