Authorities’ actions contradict their words, EU delegation says

The Belarusian authorities’ recent actions contradict the country’s stated policy of democratization and international commitments, the European Union’s delegation to the third round of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group said in a statement on April 4.

The EU delegation was led by Thomas Mayr-Harting, managing director for Europe and Central Asia in the European External Action Service, and included representatives of the European External Action Service and the Directorates-General of the European Commission responsible for the European Neighborhood Policy, trade, energy, and home affairs. 

Apart from taking part in the April 3-4 meeting of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group, the EU delegation met with Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey and Maksim Ryzhankow, deputy head of the Presidential Administration. 

“In the context of the latest developments, the European Union delegation stressed that despite the international community's calls for restraint, the actions applied by the authorities, including preventive arrests before and a large number of arrests and detentions of peaceful protesters on 25 March, were indiscriminate and inappropriate and that such limitations to the freedom of expression and assembly were in contradiction with Belarus' stated policy of democratization and its international commitments,” reported the press office of the EU Delegation to Belarus. 

“In all its meetings, the European Union delegation reiterated that tangible and irreversible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, assembly and the media, as well as the rule of law and human rights, including the abolition of the death penalty, will remain key for shaping the European Union's future policy towards Belarus and its relations with the country,” the press office said. 

According to the press office, the EU delegation stressed the need for full transparency and cooperation on nuclear safety issues while discussing the construction of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant in the Astravets district, Hrodna region. 

“During the European Union-Belarus Coordination Group meeting a specific session was dedicated to human rights and political freedoms,” the press office said. “In addition, a broad list of subjects of particular importance to civil society was discussed including mobility, people to people contacts, trade, energy, customs, transport, environment, research, education, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, agriculture and social security. Both sides exchanged views on developments in the region.” 

“The European Union delegation also presented a proposal for European Union – Belarus Partnership Priorities with a special focus on good governance, strengthening institutions and the rule of law; mobility and people to people contacts, in line with the priorities agreed by all partners at the 2015 Riga Eastern Partnership Summit,” the press office said. 

“In keeping with the European Union’s policy of cooperation and involvement of civil society, the European Union delegation encouraged the authorities to consult widely with all stakeholders, and met separately with Belarusian human rights defenders, civil society representatives and members of political opposition movements,” the press office said.

“The European Union reconfirmed its commitment to a stable, democratic and prosperous future for Belarus, for the benefit of its people, and will continue its work with all the stakeholders in achieving this important objective.”