Commissioner: EU maintains offer to Belarus, but with conditions

The contrast between the EU’s dynamic relations with some Eastern Partnership countries and the long-standing stagnation of its relations with Belarus is stark, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle has told the European Parliament at the plenary session in Strasbourg.

This regrettable situation is of Belarus’ own making, he underscored, noting in particular that “Belarus is the only country in the world, I am aware of, that has not reacted to our offer to negotiate visa facilitation agreement.”

The EU maintains its offer to Belarus, the Commissioner said, but it is a conditional one. Political prisoners must be released and rehabilitated, and there must be progress on human rights.

In the meantime, the EU has no choice but to maintain its policy of targeted restrictive measures while finding ways to support the Belarusian people. During the last two years, the EU has strengthened its assistance and engagement with Belarusian civil society and with the Belarusian public at large. In particular, the Union has intensified its dialogue with civil society, including via the European Dialogue on Modernisation, said Füle.

This Dialogue has the potential to become a channel for communication both with wider Belarusian society and with the authorities. Since Foreign Minister Makey’s appointment, the Commissioner said, Minsk has taken a number of diplomatic steps to improve relations with the EU, which includes the re-opening of the Swedish Embassy in the capital. The EU welcomes this, and “within the constraints we face, we are doing what we can to enhance our cooperation in certain areas.” These include for example our technical dialogues on economic and financial issues and also the environment.

As soon as Belarus takes the necessary steps, work can be resumed on the Joint Interim Plan, paving the way for the full participation of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership, the Commissioner stressed.

In his closing remarks Štefan Füle made three points:

1.The situation in Belarus in terms of human rights and democracy remains of serious concern, which justifies the need to continue with the EU’s policy of critical engagement towards Minsk.

2. The EU offers enough instruments “to engage with our partners based on the principle more for more but also less for less.”

3. Belarus can still use the opportunity and give the EU grounds for a more positive view in the context of the forthcoming Eastern Partnership summit.

The Commissioner called upon the authorities of Belarus to take the necessary steps and bring the country “back to the heart of Europe where it belongs.”


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