Belarus opposition leader urges EU caution


EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - The EU should not be fooled by cosmetic political reforms in Belarus, opposition leader Alexander Kazulin warned on Tuesday (16 September), one day after EU foreign ministers expressed readiness to relax sanctions.

"Today we have every proof that there have been no important changes concerning the democratisation of Belarus. They are only facade changes, not fundamental ones," Mr Kazulin told press after holding meetings in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Familiar scenes from Minsk: there have only been "facade changes" in Belarus, Mr Kozulin says (Photo:

The fact that Minsk in August freed three political prisoners - including Mr Kazulin himself who had spent two and a half years in jail - is not enough to warrant a shift in EU policy as not much has actually changed in the country, the dissident added.

"We [still] have no elections, but appointments by [Belarus president] Mr Lukashenko," Mr Kazulin explained, saying that his own daughter who is running for parliament in upcoming elections has no chance "because of her last name."

The opposition leader said the EU should not ignore Minsk's offer of a rapprochement entirely and should upgrade relations to some extent, but getting the right balance without prematurely rewarding the regime will be hard.

"I believe the EU will have enough wisdom to take the right decision, make the right conclusions."

EU foreign ministers on Monday declared Brussels' readiness "to begin to review the restrictive measures against Belarusian leaders, and to take positive and concrete measures" if the 28 September parliament vote is conducted in a "democratic" way.

The EU's sanctions - imposed in 2006 following rigged presidential elections - include a visa ban on 41 officials, with President Lukashenko and current electoral commission head, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, named as persona non grata.

Following the EU ministers' announcement on Monday, Ms Yarmoshyna told Belarus' Euroradio that she was looking forward to the sanctions being dropped so that she could visit her favourite holiday spots in Europe.

"I am afraid to suppose this happiness is possible, but when it is true, I will be able to choose a good trip next year," she said.

"It is certainly Paris, certainly Venice and certainly Spain, somewhere in autumn. I dream about it. I am an educated person, I am interested in museums, so visiting museums would be the main thing."



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