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Belarus: MEPs call for tough EU sanctions against national officials

AFET Press release - External relations12-01-2011 - 18:15

The EU must impose a travel ban and asset freeze on Belarusian officials involved in the violent election crackdown of 19 December 2010, and make the lifting of these measures conditional upon release of opposition leaders from prison, said MEPs in a statement following an extraordinary debate on Belarus on Wednesday.

The following key demands for EU action were set out in a joint statement by European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek and the Foreign Affairs Committee, in association with the Human Rights Subcommittee and the delegations for relations with Belarus and to the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly:

  • enacting a travel ban and financial asset freeze on Belarusian officials involved in the violent crackdown of 19 December 2010. The lifting of these measures should be conditional on the release of all opposition leaders detained in relation with the events,

  • amplifying financial support to Belarusian civil society, independent media and NGOs,

  • increasing financial aid and scholarships for Belarusian students (many of whom were expelled from university after taking part in peaceful protests),

  • lowering visa fees for the Belarusian citizens and even abolishing them for students, scientists and artists, and

  • reconsidering the position to be taken as to the inter-parliamentary relations with Belarus, including in the context of the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly.

Opening the debate, Mr Buzek agreed with most MEPs on the need to target Belarusian officials without further isolating or worsening the situation of Belarusian citizens. "Our first priority is the release of all those remaining in prison who were detained on the election night. The heavy charges brought against them must be dropped immediately. Proper medical care must be provided to all those in need. This is a sine qua on condition if Belarus wants to have any relations with the EU", he said.

Further measures?

Elmar Brok (EPP, DE), advocated sending an EP fact-finding mission to Minsk if Belarusian opposition leaders agree that this could be useful. A final decision on a such mission is to be taken by Parliament's Conference of Presidents this week.

Chair of Parliament's delegation to Euronest Parliamentary Assembly Kristian Vigenin (S&D, BG), called for an international independent inquiry to investigate the violent repression in the aftermath of election day.

Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE, ET), rejected EU enlargement and neighbourhood policy Commissioner Štefan Füle's suggestion that relations with Belarus be pursued in the context of the EU Eastern Partnership agreement. "All relations with Belarus authorities must be suspended", she said.

Both Ana Gomes (S&D, PT) and Charles Tannock (ECR, UK), called on the EU to push for a democratic re-run of the elections.

"You have a key to my father's liberation"

Belarusian opposition leaders Aliaksandr Milinkevich (Chair of the Movement for Freedom and 2006 Sakharov prize winner) and Andrei Aliaksandrau (Vice-Chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists and 2004 Sakharov prize winner) both stressed that the most effective EU action would be to support, with all financial and political means, the efforts of Belarusian civil society to promote democracy and oppose the dictatorial regime.

Eva Nyaklyaeva, the daughter of jailed Belarusian presidential candidate,  said: "I need you to understand the urgency of the situation. My father had a health crisis in prison some days ago and I have had no news of him since then. You have a key to my father's liberation... we totally depend on international solidarity now".

In the chair : Gabriele ALBERTINI (EPP, IT)

REF. : 20110110IPR11478
Updated: ( 12-01-2011 - 18:30)