German MP says that she is in favor of cooperation with Belarus but will not forget about political prisoners

Marieluise Beck, a member of Germany’s Bundestag, said Friday in an interview with BelaPAN in Minsk that she was in favor of cooperation between Belarus and the European Union but had no intention of forgetting about the political prisoners in the country.

Ms. Beck gave an evasive reply to a direct question about whether or not she was in favor of a policy of sanctions or a softer approach toward the Belarusian government.

She noted that the EU had been optimistic about Belarus in the run-up to the December 2010 presidential election, only to be deeply disappointed when the government launched a crackdown on its opponents after the election. “The disappointment was very, very big, and the feeling that the answer must be strong was big too,” she said. “And I belonged to those people who had he feeling there must be a strong answer. We can’t just turn around and say, ‘Well.’”

Ms. Beck indicated that Russia’s increasingly “aggressive and nationalistic” foreign policy was causing Europe to start looking for “mouse holes” of opportunity for cooperation with Belarus. “It means not talking about the differences any more,” she said. Ms. Beck stressed that she was nevertheless “not to be quiet about the political prisoners.” She noted that prison administrations were trying to “break people physically and psychologically” by keeping them in solitary confinement for months. She expressed hope that Alyaksandr Lukashenka would release the prisoners of conscience.