Belarus: more democratisation needed before sanctions are lifted, say MEPs

MEPs have given their backing to the Council's recent decision to prolong sanctions against certain Belarusian officials whilst suspending the application of travel restrictions until October 2010. More needs to be done to guarantee media freedom, reform the electoral code and abolish the death penalty before the sanctions can be completely lifted, says a resolution adopted on Thursday.

No further progress has been made in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms, say MEPs, recalling the continued repression of political opponents and the Belarusian government's refusal to register political parties (e.g. Belarusian Christian Democracy), NGOs (Viasna) and independent media (TV Belsat).

Parliament nevertheless acknowledges that there have been some positive signs in Belarus, such as the release of a number of political prisoners, the granting of authorisation for the distribution of two independent newspapers, and the "constructive and active participation" of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership.

EU-Belarus ties

Euronest, the Eastern Partnership Assembly, could emerge as one of the most effective channels to strengthen ties between Belarus and the EU. Belarus will be invited to participate fully in the Assembly as soon as free and fair Belarusian parliamentary elections take place, Parliament points out. Equally, the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between the EU and Belarus, on hold since 1997, should be unblocked once all necessary political reforms have been completed and implemented.

Democratisation and reforms

Parliament insists that it expects clear and significant progress towards democratisation in Belarus within the next year in order for the sanctions to be completely lifted. To meet the conditions Belarus needs to allow political parties and civil society organisations to be registered and operate freely. It must also safeguard freedom of religion (in particular that of the New Life Church), establish favourable conditions for NGOs and independent media and reform the country's Media Law.

The resolution urges the Belarus authorities to respect the rights of national minorities and recognise the Union of Poles, in accordance with the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Visa facilitation

MEPs also ask the Commission to draft recommendations for the possible adoption of directives on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus. According to the resolution, "such action is crucial to fulfil the main goal of EU policy towards Belarus, namely enhancing people-to-people contact, making Belarus part of European and regional processes". Parliament also requests the Council and the Commission to consider reducing the cost of visas for Belarus citizens entering the Schengen Area and to simplify the procedure for obtaining these visas.

Death penalty

Lastly, MEPs call on the Government of Belarus to establish an immediate moratorium on all death sentences and executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty. The sentences of all prisoners currently on death row must be commuted to imprisonment without delay, they say.


Partners: Social Network