Sassoli: The future of Belarus can only be decided by its citizens.
I should like to start by thanking President Michel for convening this meeting at short notice. I also applaud the consensus reached at the recent meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs.
It is clear to everyone that we are witnessing a turning point in the history of Belarus.
For 10 days now, thousands of people have been taking to the streets to protest not only against rigged elections, a finding confirmed by all the international observers present, but above all against the brutality and violence employed by the regime.
The scenes we are witnessing, and the stories we are being told, stories of torture and violence against peaceful demonstrators, are appalling and have been met with revulsion in our countries.
There is every reason to fear escalating repression and military intervention, and I have a clear message for those who believe that they can divide us: There are no Europeans who are not worried. We Europeans are united in being concerned, alarmed, and I wish this Council will confirm that our response is the right one.
The future of Belarus can only be determined by its own citizens through a normal democratic process which safeguards their freedoms. Outside intervention in the crisis the country is going through would be intolerable.
We well understand the anger felt by the citizens of Belarus. The State whose task it should be to protect them is using violence to stifle the new spirit of democracy spreading throughout the country.
I think you all agree that our duty is to do everything possible to halt that violence and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
In Minsk and other towns and cities, men and women are fighting for values that are very familiar to us, because they underpin our Union: the dignity of the individual, human rights, freedom, democracy.
I believe that it is our duty, not only as neighbours and friends, but above all as representatives of democratic institutions, to help the people of Belarus along the path towards self-determination, and to be resolute in taking action against those who perpetrate violence.
We must do this not only because people in our countries, in the east and west of the EU, expect it of us, but also because it would be unacceptable simply to acquiesce, powerlessly or thoughtlessly, in the fate of a friendly people beyond our borders.
Our task is clear: support the calls made by the people of Belarus for new elections to be held as soon as possible and guarantee that acts of violence and torture will be investigated and punished.
We must exert pressure through every available channel to ensure that the prisoners arrested since 9 August are released, rehabilitated and compensated.
Sanctions are an important instrument available to the European Union, and Parliament calls on the Council to use them without delay in order to verify and punish the serious human rights violations which have occurred. Those sanctions could include the freezing of the assets of those who are misusing their power and violating fundamental freedoms.
We are deeply concerned at the violations of human rights and we believe that the only viable way ahead is that of dialogue involving all national and international stakeholders to secure a peaceful solution. The European Union must have an active role in that dialogue, in the context of its Neighbourhood Policy, and the European Parliament is prepared to play its part in collaboration with the OSCE, drawing on its own structures and the experience it has gained in monitoring elections.
We have no wish to impose our own models, but we cannot remain indifferent to the desire for freedom of a people who want to open a new chapter in their history.