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Delegation for relations with Belarus (D-BY)

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the European Parliament decided in 1994 to create a joint Delegation for relations with Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus.

The Parliament's effort to create links with these countries was part of the EU's wider effort to strengthen the bilateral relationships. In the early 1990s, the EU negotiated "Partnership and Cooperation Agreements" with these countries, as well as with Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Partnership and Cooperation Agreements were intended to establish a bilateral framework for political and economic cooperation on the basis of shared values and principles.

They also created a forum for parliamentary dialogue by establishing "Parliamentary Cooperation Committees". The committees linked the European Parliament to the national parliament of the country signing the agreement, providing a formal structure for discussing issues of common interest. The committees were also charged with overseeing the implementation of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements.

A special case

While Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine were initially grouped together by the Parliament in a single Delegation, their paths soon diverged.

Two years after the EU-Belarus Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed, in 1995, its ratification was frozen in response to worrying political developments in the country.

This meant that no EU-Belarus Parliamentary Cooperation Committees was ever constituted- although six other committees linking the EU with eastern neighbours (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine) were established in the mid-1990s.

The European Parliament's Delegation therefore remained without an official counterpart in Belarus for many years.

A single, separate Delegation for relations with Belarus, operating in a particular political context, was finally established in 2004. By this point in time, Belarus had become a direct EU neighbour (bordering with three EU member states), following the enlargement of the Union.

Belarus within the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly

On 3 May 2011, the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly was created as parliamentary extension of the EU's Eastern Partnership policy, which covers Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

Unfortunately, it has not been possible to admit Belarus to the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly so far because the country does not fulfil the membership criteria laid down in Article 3 of the Assembly's Constituent Act.

This article requires that a participating parliament:

be part of the constitutional system of one of the countries participating in the Eastern Partnership;

have been elected according to OSCE commitments, and other international standards for democratic elections;

commit itself to protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms, pluralistic democracy and the rule of law.

While the National Assembly of Belarus has not joined the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly, the Assembly did create a Working Group on Belarus in May 2011.

This Working Group has discussed, with various stakeholders, how to facilitate the participation of Belarus in the Assembly's proceedings. The full-fledged participation of the National Assembly of Belarus in the Euronest PA and its bodies is worthy of continued reflection, but any concrete step can be only considered if the Belarusian parliamentary elections meet democratic standards.

When appropriate, meetings of the European Parliament Delegation for relations with Belarus are held in association with the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group on Belarus.

Sakharov Prize for Belarusians

The European Parliament has awarded its Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Belarusians three times.

In 2004, the award went to the Belarusian Association of Journalists for their work promoting press freedom in the country.

In 2006, Aliaksandr Milinkevich, a former presidential candidate from the Belarus's democratic opposition Movement for Freedom, was given the prize for having demonstrated 'the courage to challenge the last dictatorship in Europe'.

In 2020, the Sakharov Prize was bestowed upon the democratic opposition in Belarusis represented by the Coordination Council, initiative of brave women (main opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich, musician and political activist Maryia Kalesnikava, and political activists Volha Kavalkova and Veranika Tsapkala), as well as political and civil society figures (video blogger and political prisoner Siarhei Tsikhanouski, Ales Bialiatski, founder of the Belarusian human rights organisation Viasna, Siarhei Dyleuski, Stsiapan Putsila, founder of the Telegram channel NEXTA, and Mikola Statkevich, political prisoner and presidential candidate in the 2010 election).

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