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EU not ready for compromise on political prisoners

EU not ready for compromise on political prisoners

The Belarusian authorities should release the political prisoners for establishing a dialogue with the European Union.

This statement was made in Minsk on January 29 by Rodolphe Richard, the head of the Political, Press and Information Section at the EU Delegation to Belarus, at a round table discussion of the Belarusian-EU relations after the EaP Summit in Vilnius, BelaPAN news agency reports.

There are certain barriers to the complete normalisation of relations, Richard said adding that he didn't see possibilities for compromises from the EU. It's difficult to propose something without specific steps by Belarus, according to him.

The diplomat called positive the development of the bilateral relations. “In any case, 2013 was better than 2012. The EU suspended its sanctions against the foreign minister. He is still on the list [of the persons subject to restrictive measures], but, as long as he is foreign minister, he may travel, obtain a visa. Diplomatic communication between Belarus, the European Union and the member countries has increased,” Richard said.

Aleh Shloma, the Head of the EU Desk of the European Cooperation Division at the Belarusian MFA, said about the problem of political prisoners: “We're aware of the issue.”

“It doesn't mean it is the only barrier to a happy future in our relations with the EU. Let's be realistic. If these people are released tomorrow, we won't become good friends with the EU, get a shower of European money and turn into the EU's favourite country. There are many negative things that require time and mutual efforts to tackle the situation. We don't close our eyes to the problems. But it's just one of the issues,” the MFA's representative said.

Shloma suggested having a broader look at the situation and accumulating a “critical mass, the mutual steps possible in the current conditions”. “Let's not expect something impossible, something that cannot happen. I don't rule out the possibility that it may happen in certain conditions,” the official said.

Aleh Shloma also commented on the information on behind-the-scene talks between EU diplomats and the Belarusian authorities mentioned by Lukashenka on January 21 during a meeting with heads of the Belarusian media.

“This is a common practice in the world. Many things are not discussed in public. Belarus is not an exception. There are several levels of discussions. Look at other countries that have had huge problems with the global centers of power until recently, for example, Iran. Nevertheless, we see serious progress made not only due to public diplomacy,” Shloma said.

There are 11 political prisoners in Belarus. European and American politicians have repeatedly called to release them immediately.

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