Aug. 2 2005

Declaration From The Presidency On Behalf Of The European Union On Belarus

The European Union expresses its deep concern at recent developments in Belarus which demonstrate once again the systematic and increasing repression of civil society, the political opposition and the independent media.

The EU condemns recent actions by the Belarusian authorities against the Union of Poles in Belarus and the government's interference in the activities of this independent non-governmental organisation. The EU believes such interference undermines minority rights, thereby contravening standards of governance to which Belarus has signed up to as part of its OSCE commitments. The EU calls on the Government of Belarus to reverse its repressive policy against its own citizens and to ensure full compliance with its human rights obligations, including on minorities.

The EU also condemns the sentences passed recently against Nikolai Statkevich and Pavel Severinets for their role in organising demonstrations after the flawed elections in October 2004, and the sentence passed against Andrey Klimov for organising a demonstration on 25 March 2005. The EU believes that these trials were politically motivated. The EU further recalls its previous declarations concerning persons imprisoned for politically motivated reasons, and continues to request their release. Freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate are inalienable human rights which the EU calls on Belarus to respect.

The EU also regrets the increasing obstacles faced by independent newspapers in their efforts to operate freely and remains concerned at the level of fines levied against them.

The EU is disappointed that the actions of the Belarusian government continue to hinder the development of closer EU-Belarus relations and prevent the Belarusian people from enjoying the benefits of the European Neighbourhood Policy. The EU will continue to follow developments closely and will keep under review its policy towards Belarus in response to these actions.

The EU reiterates its standing commitment to continue assisting Belarusian civil society and the population at large in their efforts to promote a democratic and pluralistic society in Belarus.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey and Croatia *, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova align themselves with this declaration.

* Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.