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CRE 12/09/2023 - 20

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CRE 13/09/2023 - 7.11

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Tuesday, 12 September 2023 - Strasbourg Revised edition

20. Relations with Belarus (debate)
Video of the speeches

  Puhemies. – Esityslistalla on seuraavana Petras Auštrevičiusin ulkoasiainvaliokunnan puolesta laatima mietintö suhteista Valko-Venäjään (2023/2041(INI)) (A9-0258/2023)


  Petras Auštrevičius, rapporteur. – Madam President, Commissioner, dear colleagues, in preparing this report on the EU’s relations with Belarus, we had a solid consensus with representatives of the main political groups. I thank you, my colleagues, the shadow rapporteurs. This report reaffirms our shared commitment to a democratic future for Belarus.

The founding values of the European Union are incompatible with the policies of the Lukashenka regime and its ruthless repression of opponents and drivers of change. Our common goal is to maintain the unconditional support of the EU and its Member States for the Belarusian democratic forces currently mainly based abroad and giving the people of Belarus hope for a different future.

Let us not give up the fight for the human rights of the Belarusian people, because in doing so we confirm our own values. The fiercely persecuted political prisoners, who have been subjected to torture, humiliation and oppression, and their families, must continue to receive support from the international community. Let me just remind you that Belarus remains one of the few countries in the world where a Nobel laureate is imprisoned. Ensuring that persecuted people are able to leave for safe countries is not a matter of choice, but of our unconditional commitment.

The struggle for the democratic and European future of Belarus is also taking place in Ukraine, where Belarusian volunteers are fighting shoulder to shoulder with Ukrainian defenders against the Russian oppressor. They are kind of the 21st century rebels of Kastus Kalinouski’s struggle for freedom. They need our recognition and support.

The way forward for Belarus is Europe, breaking free from Russia’s grip and building its national identity. I congratulate all Belarusian enthusiasts who, since the beginning of 2022, have consistently pursued the path of European choice and tried to awaken genuine European ambitions among their fellow citizens. I believe that the democratic Belarusian opposition, in building a vision of a European Belarus eventually integrated into the EU, will follow the path of collective cooperation and will exorcise the ghosts of historical revisionism.

The Sakharov Prize awarded by the European Parliament in 2020 to the democratic opposition in Belarus is a commitment between us to inevitable change. I sincerely believe that this European Parliament report will empower all the EU institutions and Member States to take a unified course and, ultimately, lead to democratic change. We are witnessing a global struggle for an approach from Lisbon to Minsk. That is Europe’s challenge to the dictators of the East today. Let us help the democrats of Belarus to return to their homeland and to create in it a part of Europe that we all share and cherish.

(The speaker used a slogan in a non-EU language)


  Olivér Várhelyi, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, honourable Members, let me thank the rapporteur, Mr Auštrevičius, for the report and for keeping the situation in Belarus high on the agenda of this Parliament.

As your report points out, Belarusian people continue to be exposed to systemic human rights violations by the Lukashenka regime. Around 1 500 political prisoners are detained in appalling conditions. They are exposed to ill treatment and torture without access to essential health services. Many political prisoners have been kept for months without contact with the outside world.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions continue.

The regime has also stepped up repression against exiled Belarusians. Last week, Lukashenko signed a decree denying Belarusians who live abroad the right to replace their passports or sell properties from outside the country.

Furthermore, the regime remains a threat to regional and international security. It is Russia’s accomplice in its war of aggression against Ukraine, and it has welcomed criminal Wagner mercenaries since July.

It also continues to instrumentalise migration to destabilise the EU borders.

Through these actions, the regime is not only threatening national stability, but also regional stability, and it is selling Belarus’s own sovereignty and independence to Russia.

Let me reaffirm our full solidarity with the Member States that share a border with Belarus and are confronted with these provocations. But let me also underline that the regime’s actions will not deter us from supporting the Belarusian people.

Honourable Members, the EU has stood by the Belarusian people from the first day following the fraudulent elections of August 2020 and will continue to do so.

We have mobilised over EUR 100 million in direct support to victims of repression, human rights defenders, civil society organisations, independent media and journalists.

We have supported students and businesses in exile, as well as initiatives aimed at safeguarding the Belarusian identity, culture and language.

We have called out the regime’s violations in international fora, and we have worked with international partners to create a robust accountability mechanism.

The EU has also adopted seven rounds of sanctions, both individual and sectoral, against the regime’s human rights violations and its complicity in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

Last June, High Representative Borrell launched a new consultative group with Belarusian democratic forces and civil society. This new initiative will help shape further EU actions in support of the efforts of Belarusian democratic forces and civil society.

I would also like to commend this House for inviting Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to address this chamber tomorrow.

As you correctly call for in your report, the spiral of violence has to end. The Belarusian authorities must engage in a genuine and inclusive dialogue with all elements of society leading to free and fair elections.

The EU will continue to stand by the Belarusian people on the path to a free, sovereign and democratic Belarus, as part of a peaceful Europe.


  Sandra Kalniete, PPE grupas vārdā. – Priekšsēdētājas kundze! Komisāra kungs! Godātie kolēģi! Pirms trim gadiem Minskā vairāk nekā 100 000 cilvēku protestēja pret nozagtām prezidenta vēlēšanām. Lukašenkas režīms nežēlīgi izrēķinājās ar protestētājiem. Pašlaik cietumos smok vairāk nekā 1500 politiski ieslodzīto, 300 000 pametuši valsti.

Lukašenkas režīms ir drauds Eiropas drošībai. Baltkrievijā ir izvietoti Krievijas taktiskie kodolieroči, tur atrodas Wagner algotņi, tiek trenētas Krievijas armijas vienības karadarbībai Ukrainā, izmitināti vairāk kā 2000 nelegāli pārvietotu ukraiņu bērnu.

Faktiski, režīms ir kļuvis līdzagresors Krievijas brutālajā karā pret Ukrainu. Pret Eiropas Savienību režīms sistemātiski organizē Latvijas, Lietuvas un Polijas robežas šķērsošanu, mēģinot ieplūdināt Eiropā tūkstošiem nelegālu migrantu.

Es aicinu Starptautisko krimināltiesu izdot Lukašenkas aresta orderi, kā arī paplašināt Eiropas Savienības sankciju sarakstu ar personām, kuras Baltkrievijā ir atbildīgas par Ukrainas bērnu nelikumīgu turēšanu piespiedu nometnēs.

Lukašenka ir aizliedzis ārzemēs atjaunot Baltkrievijas pilsoņiem pases, kā arī pieprasījis politisko partiju pārreģistrāciju. Tas ir mēģinājums iznīcināt jebkuru demokrātisko opozīciju, piespiežot tās pārstāvjus atgriezties Baltkrievijā.

Eiropas Savienībai ir jādara viss nepieciešamais, lai sadarbotos ar baltkrievu opozīciju un pasargātu tās darbību politiskajā trimdā.


  Thijs Reuten, on behalf of the S&D Group. – Madam President, Commissioner, colleagues, working on this Belarus report has been a sobering experience. The staggering number of political prisoners, including so many of our friends like Ales Bialiatski, Maryia Kalesnikava, Mikola Statkevich and so many others that is rightfully said by EU Commissioner of some of them, we don’t even know where they are. But also more than 2 000 Ukrainian children abducted to Belarus – who would have imagined a little over three years ago that we would be writing about that?

Let’s be honest, and I said it before here, if we would have applied half of the policies as we do on Russia today three years ago on Putin’s lapdog, the dictator, we may have been in a different place. But let’s take the example in the leadership of the united democratic opposition and all the brave Belarusians and stay focussed on a free Belarus in the European family of democracies. First Ukraine, then Belarus. That is what the fighters fighting side by side in Ukraine say, and we must see the link between them. We need to step up and make sure that the complicit dictator Lukashenko faces the sanctions as firm as Russia and will be held accountable.

(The speaker used a slogan in a non-EU language)


  Karin Karlsbro, on behalf of the Renew Group. – Madam President, Commission, colleagues, unity is our strongest weapon to defeat dictators like Putin, like Lukashenka. We must continue to stand firm and together support Belarus and respect sanctions until time changes. It does not matter if you represent sports or business, politics or research, we have to ask ourselves: what can I do to stand with the people of Belarus?

Recently, the highly profiled Nobel Foundation missed asking themselves that simple question. After massive criticism, they changed their minds and did not invite the Ambassador from Belarus to the Nobel Prize celebration in Stockholm in December. Of course, this could have been a painful provocation, especially as last year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, human rights defender Mr Ales Bialiatski, is still in prison, together with more than 1 500 other political prisoners. Dictators and their ambassadors have no place in the European Union.


  Viola von Cramon-Taubadel, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Madam President, Commissioner, dear colleagues, exactly three years ago, Masha Kalesnikava was arrested by Lukashenko when she tore up her passport and refused to leave Belarus. For more than seven months, Masha’s whereabouts remained unknown.

Maksim Znak, Ihar Losik and many other political prisoners have also disappeared without trace. Lukashenko’s Belarus has now over 1 500 political prisoners – many of them are being tortured and held under complete inhumane conditions. Mikola Statkevich, Palina Panasiuk, Ales Pushkin, Artsiom Kasakouski, to name but a few.

The list is painfully long. But what are we doing while Lukashenko turns the country into a modern gulag in the heart of Europe? Instead of sanctioning all the judges and special forces who enable the bloody regime, we give them visas to tour through Europe. Imagine being a political prisoner and bumping into your former oppressor on the Acropolis. This is exactly what has happened. Instead of cutting off the regime’s sources of income, some here daydream about Lukashenko’s red potash mountains, ironically the same colour as the hands of the dictator and his enablers. There is no way back. We cannot negotiate with terrorists and murderers without losing our values. There is only one way forward: to do everything possible to end Lukashenko’s inhuman regime – the sooner, the better for everyone.


  Anna Fotyga, on behalf of the ECR Group. – Madam President, Commissioner, (The speaker used a slogan in a non-EU language) – with this call in mind, Petras Auštrevičius led our efforts to present a very good report before the Parliament. It is already three years after fraudulent elections and the power of usurper Lukashenko intimidating his own nation in a most brutal way. All of us know these pictures from court proceedings. We know about the Russification of Belarusians and minorities in the country.

But what is also important, we know that there were actions preceding the war of aggression on Ukraine by the Russian Federation that were actually accompanying and helping the aggressor, pushing migrants forcefully to neighbouring countries, including my country, Poland.

I would like to thank border guards of all countries for their work in defending Europe in this difficult, dire situation. I pay tribute to Belarus and fighters fighting for the freedom of Ukraine. And of course I pay tribute to all those members of the democratic opposition that are so well organised to oppose the usurper.


  Helmut Scholz, im Namen der Fraktion The Left. – Frau Präsidentin! Am heutigen Tag sind es genau 29 Jahre, ein Monat und 23 Tage, an denen Alexander Lukaschenko über die Menschen in Belarus herrscht.

Tausende Oppositionelle, Gewerkschafterinnen und Gewerkschafter, Medien- und Kulturschaffende, Angehörige verschiedener Minderheiten sind seitdem bedroht, weggesperrt, gefoltert, verschwunden oder aus dem Land vertrieben. Dass die immer noch geltende Todesstrafe nun auch für sogenannte extremistische Aktivitäten gilt, ist ein Tiefpunkt dieser Spirale. Offensichtlich hat das Regime nur noch ein Ziel: Zeit gewinnen. Einen auf Einschüchterung und Gewalt gebauten Status quo verlängern.

Können Isolation, die Verarmung des Landes und die gewaltsame Entmündigung einer Gesellschaft der richtige Weg sein, um Zukunft zu gewinnen? In der dritten Dekade des 21. Jahrhunderts, angesichts des Klimawandels, dringend notwendiger, tiefgreifender Umgestaltungen unserer Gesellschaften – auch der in Belarus –, unserer Wirtschaftsweise, der internationalen Herausforderungen kann das kein Weg sein.

Diese erfordern demokratische Beteiligung aller Menschen, Freiheit des Denkens, freie Wahlen. Nichts de-legitimiert eine Regierung mehr, als wenn ihr das Volk abhandenkommt. Halten wir Belarus unsere Türen offen.


  Rasa Juknevičienė (PPE). – Madam President, Lithuania has the longest border with Belarus and we constantly live under Putin’s puppet Lukashenka’s provocations. But we strongly believe in Belarus’s European and democratic future. We have experienced Lukashenka’s weaponised migration attacks, the hijacking of an aircraft, the deployment of nuclear weapons, the arrival of the terrorist Wagner group, constant threats and blackmail.

But we are not afraid: not afraid to name Lukashenko and Putin as war criminals; not afraid to admit that Ukraine’s crushing victory will bring changes in Russia, Belarus and the region. We have sheltered an unprecedented number of Belarusians. We host the only university in exile and the office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

I urge to take regular contact with the representatives of democratic Belarus. Let’s not forget the political prisoners. Let’s prepare for democratic Belarus and help it come through.


  Evin Incir (S&D). – Madam President, yesterday, I had the pleasure to meet the true leader of Belarus, the president-elect, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, when she received the Anna Lindh prize in Stockholm. The braveness she carries is seen in film. She embodies the true voice of the people of Belarus.

The fraudster Lukashenko stole the elections in 2020. He oppresses dissidents and is the puppet of Putin. It is true that birds of a feather flock together because Lukashenko and Putin do, because war criminals do. The Belarusian people who support the people of Ukraine are jailed, and those who try to stop Russian rail transport through Belarus face the death penalty. There is a war taking place on our European soil. It is our duty to put an end to it. Tsikhanouskaya and all the people of Belarus must be supported and Lukashenko must be aborted from power.


  Andrius Kubilius (PPE). – Madam President, dear colleagues, the free choice of Belarussian people has been stolen by Lukashenko and freedom is denied. But even in such circumstances, Belarusians are making very important choices on their future.

In August, the meeting of ‘New Belarus’ opposition community under the leadership of Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya has made a very important declaration on the membership of Belarus in the European Union. I want to quote from the declaration: ‘We, the democratic forces of Belarus, express our desire for the democratic development of our country and its membership in the European Union. Full membership of Belarus in the EU is a clear and unequivocal answer to the current challenges, which will allow future generations of Belarussians to live in a free and democratic Belarus’. It is a remarkable statement, which is changing the future of Belarus.

Democratic Belarus belongs to Europe in the same way as Ukraine, Moldova or Lithuania belongs, and we need to guarantee such a future for Belarusian people. Our support for such a choice should start from simple steps: to put representatives of ‘New Belarus’ into those chairs, which till now we are keeping empty after we kicked out dictator Lukashenko.

First of all, into delegations for Belarusian relations with the European Parliament. In addition, Sviatlana Tikhanovskaya should be invited to represent ‘New Belarus’ during Eastern Partnership summits. After that, Commission, together with representatives of ‘New Belarus’, should start to prepare the draft of an Association Agreement with Belarus, which will be signed when Belarus will return to democracy. (The speaker used a slogan in a non-EU language) future Member of the European Union.


  Juozas Olekas (S&D). – Madam President, dear Commissioner, dear colleagues, this summer we marked the three-year anniversary of the falsified presidential election. But we also celebrated hundreds of thousands of ordinary Belarusian citizens who went out on the streets to protest against the brutal Lukashenka regime. Belarusians have resisted systematic repression by Lukashenka for years now and still found a resolve to stand up to the regime’s complicity in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine.

The EU and its partners should could continue supporting the democratic forces of Belarus and initiate legal proceedings against all members of Lukashenka’s regime responsible for massive and systemic human rights violations.

We condemn the recent decision of the regime to stop issuing new ID documents for Belarusians in the embassies and consulates abroad. We urge the EU Member States to grant international recognition for the national passport of Belarus that is to be issued by the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus.


  Miriam Lexmann (PPE). – Madam President, dear colleagues, Palina Panasiuk is a mother of two children. She has been severely beaten, refused medical help, put regularly into a punishment cell. Her family are denied contact with her. She is among the 1 500 political prisoners.

The list of political prisoners grows. Places of worship are either shut or destroyed, democratic opposition parties banned, thousands of the brightest minds forced to leave: such is the scale of the Lukashenko regime’s oppression. That’s why we need to make sure that the recommendations of this report translate into concrete actions. In particular, we need ambitious and predictable support for the Belarusian democratic opposition and for those who fled the oppression. Furthermore, we must do our utmost to help political prisoners and their families by continuing to raise our voices, but also by being more creative in our assistance. Finally, Lukashenko and his regime must be held accountable for their oppression of the Belarusian people, relinquishing Belarus sovereignty and supporting Russian aggression against Ukraine. Thank you. Zhivye Belarus.


  Tomasz Frankowski (PPE). – Pani Przewodnicząca! Panie Komisarzu! W imieniu polskiej delegacji Platforma PSL chciałbym podziękować Sandrze Kalniete, Petrasowi Auštrevičiusowi i innym posłom za współpracę przy tym sprawozdaniu.

Z niepokojem obserwujemy to, co się dzieje na Białorusi. Najnowszy dekret ograniczający możliwość otrzymania paszportów jest formą terroru i stanowi pozbawienie obywateli Białorusi praw obywatelskich i politycznych. Wydawanie paszportów jest suwerennym prawem każdego państwa, ale gdy Białoruś Łukaszenki efektywnie straciła swoją suwerenność na rzecz Rosji Putina, czy w takim przypadku nie mamy do czynienia z sytuacją wyjątkową? Unia Europejska powinna okazać swoje wsparcie dla Białorusinów, którzy musieli opuścić swój kraj.

Co więcej, Łukaszenka niszczy kulturę białoruską i język białoruski. W tym celu powinniśmy zachęcać państwa członkowskie Unii i instytucje Unii Europejskiej do promowania dostępu do kultury i języka białoruskiego dla wszystkich uczniów i Białorusinów w Unii Europejskiej.

Myślę, że to dobre i prawdziwe sprawozdanie, które pomaga obrońcom praw człowieka i Białorusinom opisać ich sytuację na scenie międzynarodowej, a także zabiegać i realizować kolejne cele i wartości, które są wspólne z pokojową Europą. Żywie Biełaruś!


Pyynnöstä myönnettävät puheenvuorot


  Michaela Šojdrová (PPE). – Paní předsedající, Lukašenko vytváří z Běloruska satelitní stát Ruska. Seznam zločinů samotného Lukašenka se dál rozšiřuje od zneužívání, instrumentalizace uprchlíků a migrace přes věznění, týrání politických vězňů. Já bych k těm jménům, která tady již zazněla, přidala Pavla Sevjarynce, který už více než dva a půl roku je ve vězení, neviděl své děti ani rodinu. Lukašenkův režim je zodpovědný za násilnou deportaci více než 2 150 dětí do takzvaných rekreačních táborů v Bělorusku, odkud jsou dále odvlečeny do Ruska a rusifikovány.

Svými činy je Lukašenko zodpovědný za zločiny proti lidskosti stejně jako Maria Lvová nebo Putin. Proto vyzýváme k vydání mezinárodního zatykače. Tato zpráva také opět vyzývá Mezinárodní olympijský výbor, aby na olympijských hrách v Paříži v roce 2024 nepovolil start běloruských a ruských sportovců. Věřím, že vyslyší také tento náš apel.


  Isabel Santos (S&D). – Senhora Presidente, há 1517 bielorrussos que continuam presos depois das eleições fraudulentas de 2020 e o número não para de crescer.

Recentemente, Lukashenko proibiu os bielorrussos de renovar passaportes no estrangeiro, querendo provocar o regresso em massa. Em fuga a uma ditadura que os captura e tortura, nos últimos três anos, entre 200 000 e 300 000 bielorrussos abandonaram o país. Estes números são pessoas e o que importa aqui é falar de pessoas, do povo bielorrusso que sofre na pele as consequências de um poder tirano, repressivo, brutal.

Importa falar de Aleś Puszkin, um artista dissidente que morreu em julho, na prisão, enquanto cumpria uma pena de cinco anos.

Importa falar de Palina Sharenda-Panasiuk, uma mulher, com dois filhos menores, presa desde janeiro de 2021 e que esteve 200 dias em cela solitária, sujeita ao mais desumano dos tratamentos.

Importa falar de Maria Kalesnikava e Mikalai Statkevich, de Ales Bialiatski e, também, de tantos, tantos outros encarcerados por Lukashenko.

Aqueles que seguram a bandeira da democracia com as suas vidas não podem ser abandonados pela União Europeia.


  Karen Melchior (Renew). – Madam President, this is an important resolution for Belarus. We need to show that we stand truly with Belarus and the democratic opposition’s fight for freedom for all of the population of Belarus, for its political prisoners, for its opposition in exile. We need to show not only in words and in sanctions on letters, but actually proving that we stand with the population of Belarus. We need to stop our sports associations from accepting Belarusian and Russian athletes to compete. And we need to stop the members of the Council asking for exceptions and allowing the import of Belarusian potash. We need to mirror the sanctions against Russia and apply them to Belarus. And we need to make sure that the democratic opposition living in exile have viable lives outside of Belarus. They need to have the residence and also the economic funds to actually live outside of Belarus and fight for the freedom of Belarus. (The speaker used a slogan in a non-EU language)


  Clare Daly (The Left). – Madam President, I really think it takes some neck for people to come in here and talk about repression in Belarus, feigned sympathy for Belarusians, while Lithuania, an EU Member State, flagrantly denies the human rights of Belarusian refugees. Of course, you’re happy to indulge Europe’s Juan Guaidó, Tsikhanouskaya. Meanwhile, 1 700 Belarusians are deemed to be a threat to the national security of Lithuania: 900 in Lithuania, many – like Olga Karach – simply conscientious objectors or campaigners for peace. This is deeply troubling and unacceptable.

But, of course, what is also deeply troubling are the serious reports of the poor health and dire conditions of trade union leaders Gennady Fedynich, Vasily Beresnev and Vatslav Oreshko, currently in prison in Belarus. We requested to visit these men in the best traditions of international solidarity, having previously visited prisoners all over the world and never been denied. To date, the Belarusian authorities have not granted our request. I want to ask them on the public record: we’re still waiting, what are you afraid of?


  Mick Wallace (The Left). – Madam President, I, too, would like to appeal to the Belarusian authorities to release Vatslav Oreshko, Vasily Beresnev and Gennady Fedynich, three imprisoned trade unionists. And as my colleague said, we have applied to visit them in prison and we were denied it. We’re far from impressed!

On the other issue, I think there should be an acknowledgement that Europe has driven Belarus further away from the EU with how we have behaved in the last number of years. And putting the unelected Tsikhanouskaya on a pedestal, and making another Guaidó out of her, borders on the ridiculous.

And my last issue: someone is wanting to ban all Belarusian athletes from sport. For God’s sake! When the Americans killed a million in Iraq and hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan, were they wanting to ban the American athletes from sport? Why don’t you leave this out of it?


(Pyynnöstä myönnettävät puheenvuorot päättyvät)


  Olivér Várhelyi, Member of the Commission. – Madam President, honourable Members, I think that the debate today demonstrates the overwhelming support of this Parliament to the EU’s strong reaction against Lukashenko’s regime’s repression and its involvement in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. And I concur with your calls that we must and we will continue our strong support to the people of Belarus in light of the worsening repression of Lukashenko’s regime against its population.

We will continue to call for the immediate and unconditional release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners and for repression to cease. The EU will also continue to keep the situation high on the global agenda in the international fora and to promote efforts aimed at ensuring accountability for perpetrators of human rights violations.


  Petras Auštrevičius, rapporteur. – Madam President, Commissioner, colleagues, thank you, first of all, to all of you who spoke out in favour of a different Belarus – one that is sovereign, democratic and European. That is our common goal.

I agree with the call to continue our unconditional support for the Belarusian democratic opposition and civil society, which are best placed to influence change, to provide independent information and the necessary support to the people of Belarus wherever they are.

I do not know how long this struggle will take, but we have no right to become tired or despondent. I call on the EU institutions and Member States to continue to increase the pressure on the Lukashenko regime through extension of sanctions, through the personal financial pursuit of those who enable the regime and through the detailed preparations for the international tribunal for war crimes against Ukraine. Let us develop a genuine political dialogue with the Belarusian democratic forces on the European perspective of Belarus. Let us prevent further ambitions of Russian imperialism.

I thank you all, and I wish to turn our words into deeds. To our freedom and yours.


  Puhemies. – Keskustelu on päättynyt.

Äänestys toimitetaan huomenna keskiviikkona 13. syyskuuta 2023.

Kirjalliset lausumat (171 artikla)


  David McAllister (PPE), in writing. – Last week, Mr Lukashenko declared that passports will be issued and renewed in Belarus only. This will effectively leave all those in exile stranded abroad without valid identification. This is another act of subjugation. This is another piece of evidence that the dictator in Minsk is ready to betray his population to secure his own power. Tougher sanctions need to be the consequence – against Lukashenko and all his henchmen that are responsible for violence, for repression and for the complicity in the atrocities committed in Ukraine. While Lukashenko is pushing Belarus ever deeper into the Russian orbit, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who we will welcome tomorrow noon in this hemicycle, presents a diametrically different vision. Let us elevate our relations with the Belarusian democratic forces to a more formal level. The new Consultative Group is a first step in the right direction. It is our duty – it is our self-interest even – to continue providing the opposition with the resources required to keep the Belarusian democratic dream alive.

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