A meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament was held in Brussels.
A meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee was held in the European Parliament to discuss the situation in Belarus, the correspondent of the Charter97.org website in Brussels reports.
The discussion was attended by deputies, diplomats and EU officials: the European Parliament’s permanent rapporteur on Belarus Petras Auštrevičius (Lithuania), Head of the European Parliament’s delegation on relations with Belarus Robert Biedron (Poland), Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister (Germany), Deputy Head of the European People’s Party fraction, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia Sandra Kalniete, Head of the Euronest delegation, former Prime Minister of Lithuania Andrius Kubilius, Deputy Head of the Euronest delegation Markéta Gregorová (Czech Republic), former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland, MEP Anna Fotyga, MEPs Thierry Mariani (France) and Manu Pineda (Spain), Head of Unit at Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus and Eastern Partnership Vassilis Maragos; Deputy Director of the European External Action Service for Europe and Central Asia Luc Devigne.
Lithuanian MEP Petras Auštrevičius presented draft recommendations to the Council of the EU and the European Commission on relations with Belarus. According to him, the lifting of sanctions in 2016 was “a premature and hardly justified decision,” and the EU’s policy on Belarus should be based on “the fundamental application of a long-term strategy towards European Belarus.”
Petras Auštrevičius spoke about human rights violations during the election campaign and compared the scope of the current repression with the situation in 2010.
Representative of the European Commission Vassilis Maragos, said that the EU’s current policy regarding the Lukashenka regime, the so-called “critical interaction”, when the parties “engage in dialogue” and “cooperate”, “has been generally successful”.
Representatives of ultra-right and ultra-left parties Thierry Mariani and Manu Pineda also called for “strengthening ties” and “maintaining dialogue” with Lukashenka.
An intermediate position was taken by Luc Devigne, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia of the European External Action Service. In his opinion, the policy of “critical interaction”, has led to “some positive changes.” But at the same time, he noted: “we are extremely concerned about the recent events during the presidential election campaign”, “this should stop” and “we are calling for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained”. “We welcome these recommendations to continue critical engagement, but not at the expense of democratic values,” said Luc Devigne.
Head of the Foreign Affairs Committee David McAllister said that the upcoming elections “will play a key role in developing further relations between the EU and Belarus.”
Head of the European Parliament’s delegation on relations with Belarus Robert Biedron believes that “the EU should have a clear policy towards Belarus, and this policy should be based on a clear European Belarus strategy.”
Sandra Kalniete, deputy head of the largest faction in the European Parliament, the European People's Party, made a strong speech. She spoke about political prisoners, and about the torture of the opposition. “Repression, intimidation, and arrests cannot be election methods. Lukashenka must understand that the EU will not tolerate such actions, and that there will be consequences, including targeted sanctions against groups, individuals and enterprises, and that this will affect the EU’s decisions regarding financial assistance.”
Deputy Head of the Euronest delegation Markéta Gregorová also spoke about sanctions: “In the event of further violations on the part of Lukashenka, the EU should be ready to renew sanctions lifted in 2016”.
Former Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotyga noted: “The situation is beginning to be really extremely difficult due to the wave of repression against the opposition and, in fact, against ordinary citizens, representatives of the Belarusian society. We must support them, and the signal from the EU about the consequences [for Lukashenka] of continuing this kind of behavior should be very clear.”
Deputies may propose amendments to the draft recommendations by July 20, and the final vote of the Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled for September-October. After the vote, the legislative branch in the EU will formally send its recommendations on relations with Belarus to the executive branch: the Council of the EU and the European Commission.
Head of the Euronest delegation Andrius Kubilius called on his colleagues to act faster and “send a clear signal [to Lukashenka] now, because the following week is critical.”