Procedure : 2016/2934(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : B8-1237/2016

Texts tabled :

B8-1237/2016

Debates :

Votes :

PV 24/11/2016 - 8.13
CRE 24/11/2016 - 8.13
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2016)0456

MOTION FOR A RESOLUTION
PDF 265kWORD 70k
See also joint motion for a resolution RC-B8-1232/2016
16.11.2016
PE593.668v01-00
 
B8-1237/2016

to wind up the debate on the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

pursuant to Rule 123(2) of the Rules of Procedure


on the situation in Belarus (2016/2934(RSP))


Petras Auštrevičius, Dita Charanzová, Ivan Jakovčić, Urmas Paet, Jozo Radoš, Pavel Telička on behalf of the ALDE Group

European Parliament resolution on the situation in Belarus (2016/2934(RSP))  
B8-1237/2016

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on Belarus, in particular those of 10 September 2015(1), 29 March 2012(2), 16 February 2012(3), 15 September 2011(4), 12 May 2011(5), 10 March 2011(6) and 20 January 2011(7),

–  having regard to the parliamentary elections held on 11 September 2016 and to the presidential elections held on 11 October 2015,

–  having regard to the preliminary statement of the OSCE/ODIHR, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) of 12 September 2016 on parliamentary elections in Belarus,

–  having regard to the Council conclusions on Belarus, in particular those of 16 February 2016 lifting restrictive measures against 170 individuals and three Belarusian companies,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas, in its final report on the 2015 presidential elections in Belarus, the OSCE/ODIHR, together with the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, prepared a set of recommendations to be implemented by Belarus before the 2016 parliamentary elections;

B.  whereas, in order to build better relations with the West, the Belarusian authorities undertook a number of steps presented as allowing democratic opposition parties to register more easily than in previous elections and granting foreign observers better access to the vote count, which in reality, according to the assessment of the International Election Observation Mission led by the OSCE/ODIHR, did not result in the elections being adequately conducted in compliance with OSCE commitments and other international obligations and standards;

C.  whereas, according to the assessment by the OSCE/ODIHR of the 2016 parliamentary elections, a number of long-standing systemic shortcomings remain, including legal framework restrictions for political rights and fundamental freedoms; whereas the election commissions were regarded as still not being independent, owing to the absence of opposition representatives; whereas early voting, counting and tabulation saw a significant number of procedural irregularities and lacked transparency;

D.  whereas, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, the legal and administrative systems underlying human rights restrictions remain unchanged and the two ‘token’ independent members of parliament only underline the ‘guided nature’ of the process;

E.  whereas since 1994 no free and fair elections have been conducted in Belarus under electoral legislation compliant with OSCE/ODIHR internationally recognised standards;

F.  whereas a significant improvement in freedom of speech and freedom of the media, respect for the political rights of ordinary citizens and opposition activists alike and respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights are all prerequisites for better relations between the EU and Belarus; whereas the European Union remains strongly committed to further defending human rights in Belarus, including freedom of speech and of the media;

G.  whereas the EU ended five years of restrictive measures against Belarus in February 2016 as a gesture of good will to encourage Belarus to improve its human rights, democracy and rule of law record; whereas a number of minor efforts to address certain long-standing issues ahead of the 2016 elections were noted, while at the same time many unaddressed issues concerning the legal and procedural electoral framework remain;

H.  whereas Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections (HRD) and Right to Choose 2016 (R2C), the two Belarusian election-monitoring groups, condemned the latest elections for not meeting a number of key international standards and for not being a credible reflection of the will of Belarusian citizens,

I.  whereas the Belarusian observer groups collected concrete evidence of massive nationwide efforts to inflate turnout totals during the five-day early vote period (6-10 September) and on election day (11 September);

J.  whereas the centre-right Belarusian opposition forces presented for the first time on 18 November 2015 a joint cooperation agreement to stand united in the 2016 parliamentary elections;

K.  whereas Parliament currently has no official relations with the Belarusian parliament; whereas the first official visit of Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Belarus since 2002 took place in Minsk on 18 and 19 June 2015;

L.  whereas the Belarusian parliament has no official status in the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly;

M.  whereas Belarus played a constructive role in facilitating agreement on the ceasefire in Ukraine;

N.  whereas the conflict in Ukraine has deepened fears in Belarusian society of a destabilisation of the internal situation as a result of a power shift, which does not and cannot mean, however, that the Belarusian people have abandoned their hopes of substantial reforms and a peaceful transformation of their country;

O.  whereas the Belarusian economy has seen more than 20 years of stagnation, with major sectors still remaining under state ownership and under an administrative command and control system; whereas Belarus’s economic dependence on Russia’s economic aid is continuously increasing, and whereas Belarus’s economic performance is among the lowest among the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union – its GDP fell by over USD 30 billion in 2015-2016, for example;

P.  whereas Belarus remains the only country in Europe to carry out capital punishment; whereas on 4 October 2016 the Belarusian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence against Siarhei Vostrykau; whereas this was the fourth confirmation by the Belarusian Supreme Court of a death sentence in 2016;

Q.  whereas, as stated in the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus of 21 April 2016, despite a noticeable intensification of contacts between Belarus, the EU and the United States, violations of human rights still persist and no significant change has been noted;

R.  whereas human rights organisations have drawn attention to new methods of harassment of the opposition and to the arrests of Eduard Palchis, Mikhail Zhamchuzhny and Uladzimir Kondrus in late 2015 and 2016, the latter two having been identified as political prisoners by the Belarusian human rights centre ‘Viasna’;

S.  whereas Belarus is currently building its first-ever nuclear power plant in Ostrovets, on the EU border; whereas this construction is de facto led and financed by Russia and Russian companies representing the nuclear and financial sectors;

1.  Remains deeply concerned by the shortcomings observed by independent international observers during the 2015 presidential and 2016 parliamentary elections; recognises the attempts to make progress to be extremely minor and insufficient; notes that in the newly elected parliament there will be one representative of the opposition and one of the non-governmental sector; considers these, however, to be political appointments rather than a result of the electoral outcome, as these representatives were appointed by the administration;

2.  Calls on the Belarusian authorities to resume without delay work on a comprehensive electoral reform as part of the broader democratisation process and in cooperation with international partners; stresses the need to introduce the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations in due time before the municipal elections of March 2018 and to strictly observe them in practice; emphasises that this is key for achieving the full potential of EU-Belarus relations;

3.  Reiterates its call on the Belarusian authorities to ensure, in all circumstances, respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms, in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recommendations made within the Universal Periodic Review (UPS) at the UN Human Rights Council and the international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Belarus;

4.  Calls on the Belarusian Government to rehabilitate all the political prisoners released and to fully restore their civil and political rights;

5.  Expresses its concern that since 2000 no new political party has been registered in Belarus; calls on Belarus to abandon all restrictions in this regard;

6.  Calls on the Belarusian Government to repeal without delay Article 193.1 of the Criminal Code, which penalises the organisation of and participation in the activities of non-registered public associations and organisations, and to allow the full, free and unhampered legal functioning of public associations and organisations; draws the Commission’s attention in particular to the fact that currently, as a result of the application of Article 193.1 and other restrictive measures, there are over 150 Belarusian NGOs registered in Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and elsewhere; notes the inconsistency in the EU’s efforts to increase its financial assistance through channels controlled by the Belarusian Government while international financial support to the non-governmental sector in Belarus remains subject to a heavy tax burden;

7.  Calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Commission to prioritise the abovementioned concerns at the on-going EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue and, in this context, to expand the EU’s cooperation with all international actors such as the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and, last but not least, the Belarusian opposition and independent civil society in its efforts to engage the Belarusian authorities in the drafting of a human rights road map;

8.  Condemns the fact that Belarus is the only country in Europe which still has the death penalty, contrary to European values; calls for an immediate moratorium on executions and for changes to the penal code in order to abolish capital punishment; recalls that the death penalty constitutes inhumane and degrading treatment, has no proven deterrent effect and makes judicial errors irreversible; considers it unacceptable that a death sentence was handed down the day after the European Union lifted most sanctions against Belarus;

9.  Calls on the EEAS and the Commission to continue and expand their support to civil society organisations operating in Belarus and abroad, in line with the EU policy of critical engagement with Belarus; stresses, in this regard, the need to support all independent sources of information for Belarusian society, including media broadcasting in the Belarusian language, and from abroad; considers it important to continue supporting the educational programmes and institutions functioning in exile such as the European Humanities University in Vilnius;

10.  Notes the launch in January 2014 of the negotiations on visa facilitation aimed at improving people-to-people contacts and encouraging the emergence of civil society; stresses the need to speed up progress in this regard;

11.  Is particularly worried about the safety problems raised by the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant in Ostrovets, less than 50 km from Vilnius; strongly urges the Belarusian authorities to engage in constructive cooperation with all the relevant international authorities, the EU and its Member States, to start adhering strictly to the UN Espoo and Aarhus Conventions and to demonstrate the political will to follow the post-Fukushima risk and safety assessments applied by the EU;

12.  Strongly calls on the Commission, in the context of the planned EU-Belarus energy dialogue, to prioritise the issue of safety and transparency in respect of the Belarusian nuclear power plant, and invites the Commission to provide Parliament and the Member States, in particular those neighbouring Belarus, with regular reports about its efforts to ensure the highest level of nuclear safety standards in the context of this nuclear site under construction; calls on the Commission to ensure that the EU financial institutions and mechanisms such as the European Investment Bank or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) could not be directly or indirectly used to finance the Ostrovets nuclear power plant, and to assess whether the EU guarantee granted to the EIB earlier in 2016 is in compliance with the EU sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation;

13.  Supports the Commission in its policy of ‘critical engagement’ with the Belarusian authorities, and expresses its readiness also to contribute to it via its Delegation for relations with Belarus; recalls that the EU must, however, remain vigilant as regards where its resources are allocated and make sure that they contribute to improving the situation of the opposition and civil society;

14.  Reiterates its commitment to working for the benefit of the people of Belarus, supporting their pro-democratic aspirations and initiatives and contributing to a stable, democratic and prosperous future for the country;

15.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR), the European External Action Service, the Council, the Commission, the Member States, the OSCE/ODHIR, the Council of Europe and the Belarusian authorities.

(1)

Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0319.

(2)

OJ C 257E , 6.9.2013, p. 9.

(3)

OJ C 249E , 30.8.2013, p. 57.

(4)

OJ C 51E , 22.2.2013, p. 140.

(5)

OJ C 377E , 7.12.2012, p. 162.

(6)

OJ C 199E , 7.7.2012, p. 182.

(7)

OJ C 136E , 11.5.2012, p. 57.

Legal notice