A report on the situation in Belarus containing recommendations on the EU`s policy toward Minsk will be discussed by the European Parliament on September 11.
The initial version of the report, drawn up by Justas Paleckis, the European Parliament`s rapporteur on Belarus, following his May 18-21 visit to Minsk, noted improvements in the human rights situation in Belarus in 2012 and recommended suspending entry bans against Belarusian officials, and was met with indignation from Belarusian opposition activists and human rights defenders, while the Belarusian foreign ministry expressed hope that the report would help Belarus and the European Union step up their dialogue.
More than 300 amendments and suggestions were submitted with regard to the report before the deadline, June 12. On July 9, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee approved the final draft of the report.
The report says that the European Union should “reiterate the need for the unconditional and immediate release and rehabilitation of the political and civic rights of all remaining political prisoners to be a prerequisite for a gradual lifting of EU restrictive measures and for a substantial upgrade in EU-Belarus relations.”
The report suggests using Lithuania’s EU presidency in the second half of 2013 and a European Partnership summit to be held in Vilnius in November "as unique opportunities to improve relations with Belarus, including with a view to restarting the political dialogue on, inter alia, democratic reforms and respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms."
Addressed to the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, the EU Council, the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the EU member states, the report also suggest that the EU should "consider the suspension of key officials from the EU visa ban list with a view to broadening the main and essential diplomatic communication channel with Belarus, also in view of the Eastern Partnership summit."
According to the report, the Belarusian authorities should "fully implement electoral code reforms on the basis of OSCE/ODIHR recommendations; lift all restrictions imposed on the democratic opposition; fully modernize the judiciary in line with international standards; work towards the abolition of the death penalty; reform its Criminal Code and in particular article 193(1) on participation in unregistered organizations; allow access for representatives of the relevant international organizations and members of families to all Belarusian prisons; remove any existing obstacles to NGO registration; guarantee effective freedom of and access to the media; create an independent and fully functional ombudsman; and ensure equal opportunities for and the inclusion and non-discrimination of all minorities."
The report proposes considering "unilaterally facilitating the issuing of visas and reducing their cost from EUR 60 to an affordable level for Belarusian citizens, and making full use of the existing flexibilities offered by the Visa Code, including the waiver or reduction of fees for short-stay visas; also consider unilaterally reducing or waiving the visa fees for long-stay visas."