21 January 2018, Sunday, 5:50

Štefan Füle: EU has no choice but to maintain policy of restrictive measures


The European Parliament discussed the report on the situation in Belarus at a session in Strasbourg.

The document was prepared by the EP's Rapporteur on Belarus Justas Paleckis (Lithuania) for the European Commission, the EU Council, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the EU member states, BelaPAN news agency reports. Paleckis said the human rights situation in Belarus remained deplorable. He emphasised that Lithuania's chairmanship in the EU and the Eastern Partnership Summit scheduled in Vilnius for November should be used to improve relations with Minsk and resume a political dialogue. It's possible only if all political prisoners were released, Paleckis noted.

Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, spoke on behalf on the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. He noted that the recommendations in the report would “help our further deliberations on how to approach the difficult situation we face with this neighbouring country”.

He noted that the EU was ready to cooperate with Minsk but all “political prisoners must be released and rehabilitated, and there must be progress on human rights.”

“There is little progress to report,” Füle said. “Seven political prisoners are still in prison. […] A moratorium on the death penalty is far away. The petty harassment of civil society activists and the oppression of regime critics continue unabated.”

The European Commissioner underlined that the EU had no choice but to maintain its policy of targeted restrictive measures, which would be reviewed by the EU Council in October.

Füle noted that that since Foreign Minister Makei's appointment, Minsk took a number of diplomatic steps to improve relations with the European Union, including the re-opening of the Swedish Embassy in Minsk.

“We welcome this,” Füle said. “However, it is regrettable that after two years, there has been no reply from the Belarusian authorities to our offer to launch negotiations for a visa facilitation agreement.”

Other speakers from the European Parliament emphasised that the release of all political prisoner was an essential condition for resuming the dialogue with official Minsk. Justas Paleckis announced that the voting on the report would take place on September 12. According to Paleckis, he was satisfied with the debate in the European Parliament. After the approval, the report will be presented to the European Commission, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU council and the EU member states.