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Opening of January 2011 plenary session: Auschwitz and Lithuanian anniversaries, Belarus and Tunisia

Strasbourg -
Monday, January 17, 2011

The 66th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the 20th anniversary of Lithuania's Bloody Sunday, the UN Convention on people with disabilities and the disappearance of Chinese lawyer Gao Zhisheng were among matters highlighted by President Jerzy Buzek at the opening of this week's European Parliament session in Strasbourg. Mr Buzek also spoke of the current situation in Belarus and made the opening statement in a debate on Tunisia.

First, Mr Buzek drew attention to two important dates: the 66th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau will be commemorated on 27 January, while the 20th anniversary of Lithuania's Bloody Sunday, on which 14 people were killed during Lithuania's struggle for independence from the Soviet Union, takes place on 13 January.

The EP president then welcomed the EU's accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He also voiced Parliament's concern at the fate of Chinese opposition activist Gao Zhisheng, who has disappeared after being tortured, and called on the Chinese government to reveal Mr Gao's whereabouts and his state of health.

The president thanked the outgoing Belgian presidency of the EU and welcomed its Hungarian successor.  He then referred to the recent elections in Belarus, which will be debated by MEPs on Wednesday. In addition, he expressed Parliament's sympathy for the victims of a number of recent natural disasters around the world.

Tunisia: Buzek calls for independent inquiry and offers aid for free monitored elections

Introducing a debate on the ongoing turmoil in Tunisia, Mr Buzek said "The European Parliament applauds the courage of the Tunisian people and the Jasmine Revolution in the country".  "The EP is willing to assist the new interim authorities in the organisation of free, pluralistic and internationally monitored elections", he added.

President Buzek described the current events as a "historic moment". On behalf of the European Parliament, he listed four key demands to the new Tunisian authorities:

the immediate release of all those arrested;
the launching of independent inquiries into corruption and use of violence;
the holding of free, pluralistic and internationally monitored elections, a process which Parliament is ready to accompany and assist;
in the run-up to elections, the establishment of a government of national unity including all democratic forces.

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Richard Freedman
Press Officer
+32 (0)498 98 32 39