19 January 2017, Thursday, 7:27

Ivonka Survilla: Belarus Was and Will Remain the Part of Europe

Our country has a much more ancient history than it is told at the Stalin line.

The Chairman of the BNR Ivonka Survilla commented on decision to introduce a five-day visa-free regime for citizens of 80 countries.

"In my opinion, this step can be assessed as positive, but it must be followed by other steps related to the democratization of life - free elections, respect for human rights, and freedom of press. Otherwise, it will be just an invitation to the reservation of communism. Our country has much more ancient history than it is told at "the Stalin line". But to realize the true value of the history, those who now run Belarus should, first and foremost, realize the value of independence.

Concerning the visa issue. A few years ago, I addressed the EU High Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner with a proposal to abolish visas to EU countries for Belarusian citizens, as it was done for citizens, for example, Lithuania or Poland. She said that the first step should be made by the Belarusian side. And really, if you look at the "visa history" of former socialist countries - first they abolished visas for countries of the "Old West", while those facilitated visa regime in response, and then abolished them at all.

I believe that the Belarusians should be able to travel to the EU, generally to Western countries without visas. I realize that it will take time, but now Brussels should lift an excessive fee for the visa to the Schengen area, which is more important for the Belarusians than for citizens of Russia. This is an absurd situation.

Belarus used to be a historical part of Europe and it will remain its part, it should be open for Europe, as well as Europe should be open for it."