No Progress in Relations with EU, Milinkevich Says

Nothing has changed in relations between Belarus and the European Union, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, chairman of the Movement for Freedom, told BelaPAN on Wednesday. Earlier in the day, Mr. Milinkevich and six other Belarusian opposition politicians met with Dirk Schuebel, head of the European External Action Service’s division responsible for the European Union’s relations with the Eastern Partnership countries.

The European Union continues its attempts to dialogue with the Belarusian government, but the existence of political prisoners remains the stumbling block, Mr. Milinkevich said. The Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius last November gave a certain impetus to reengagement, but Belarusian authorities do not release the prisoners of conscience despite some positive steps by the EU, he said.

“Shuebel said that there is no alternative to a dialogue,” Mr. Milinkevich said. “Of course, it should be critical and conditional, but a dialogue is important for the independence and democratization of Belarus.” Mr. Shuebel expressed satisfaction with the progress of talks on visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus. It is quite likely that the talks will be over before the end of this year, he said.

Mr. Milinkevich noted that cooperation with Europe was very important for Belarus as it prepared to sign an agreement on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. “Belarus doesn’t want to lose its political independence and will have to defend its interests during talks with Kazakhstan and Russia,” he said. “Unfortunately, time is running out and yet the government’s doesn’t take the necessary step.”


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