8 August 2020, Saturday, 11:19
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Time To Act: MEPs Urge To Impose Sanctions Against Lukashenka Regime

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Time To Act: MEPs Urge To Impose Sanctions Against Lukashenka Regime
ILLUSTRATIVE PHOTO

The European Parliament held a debate on the situation in Belarus.

A plenary meeting of the European Parliament was held in Brussels to discuss the situation in Belarus, a Charter97.org correspondent from Brussels reports.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell expressed concern over the arrests of potential candidates and activists, and condemned the repression and human rights violations in Belarus. The politician noted that the future of relations between the EU and Belarus will depend on the August 9 election.

MEPs Viola von Cramon, Michael Gahler, Robert Biedron demanded the immediate release of political prisoners, and all illegally detained.

MEP Robert Biedron began his speech with the words “Long Live Belarus!” and stated the need to put forward the demands to Lukashenka to release political prisoners, and hold fair election. He stated that the EU’s policy towards Belarus should have clear red lines, and the European Parliament should make a precise statement on this issue as quickly as possible.

Viola von Cramon said she considers it a tragedy that a country in the center of Europe still practices the death penalty, while its ruler denies the coronavirus and advises going to the bathhouse as a remedy. She believes that people in Belarus want change, which is why they stand in chains of solidarity in support of candidates. She believes that the EU monitoring mission must be present at the presidential election in our country.

Only one deputy, a representative of the extreme left, Manu Pineda, called for maintaining good relations with the Lukashenka regime.

MEP Michael Gahler objected to him: “Just be prepared that after 26 years the people of Belarus are tired of this regime. They want change. We are not calling for change; people in the country are doing it. The OSCE mission should go there, and this is extremely important. Political prisoners must be released, all candidates must take part in the election.”

Most speakers demanded sanctions and concrete action from the European Commission. Within the walls of the European Parliament, “Long Live Belarus!” sounded several times from the lips of the deputies.

MEP Andrius Kubilius said that the EU should send a signal to Lukashenka and his nomenclature: “If by July 14 the opposition candidates are not registered by the authorities, if political prisoners and candidates are not released from prisons, if people are persecuted and intimidated in the streets, then there will be sanctions.”

The politician noted that the country's cultural elite criticized the actions of the authorities, and Belarusian bloggers created a real “resistance network”. Kubilius called for the EU to identify its position with three messages:

“The first is for Belarusians to stand in solidarity with them in their quest for change and transformation;

The second is for the Belarusian nomenclature that if persecution continues and political prisoners are not released, then sanctions will follow;

The third is a message to ourselves that it is necessary to continue to uphold the rights and freedoms of neighbors.”

“The option with sanctions should remain open,” said Petras Austriavičius, a permanent rapporteur for Belarus.

The politician noted that public discontent with the policies in Belarus resulted in protests, and the Belarusian regime was stuck in the past with its repression, intimidation and mass arrests. He recalled that KGB officers were abducting ordinary people, potential presidential candidates Babaryka and Tsikhanouski were in prison, and opposition leader Mikalai Statkevich, 3 years after his release, was again remanded in custody, like Pavel Seviarynets. In his opinion, the EU structures should work out a clear strategy for cooperation with Belarus, but should also be open to help ordinary Belarusians. In his opinion, sanctions against Lukashenka were loosened too soon. “Long live Belarus!” Austriavičius finished his speech.

MEPs Norbert Neuser, Karin Karlsbro, Eugen Tomac spoke in a similar vein.

“A stronger answer is needed,” Norbert Neuser demanded.

“The EU must act,” said Eugen Tomac.

MP Juozas Olekas noted that people will remember 2020 as a year of change. But in Belarus, the election campaign is accompanied by the persecution of candidates and dissenters, taking to the streets. He believes that this is why it is necessary to strengthen sanctions against the Lukashenka regime, but they should not affect ordinary Belarusians - as, for example, in case of an opportunity to get education in the European Union.

“The EU must strengthen the sanctions,” said Juozas Olekas.

“Lukashenka should be punished for his actions, this should not be allowed to continue,” Karin Karlsboro said.

At the end of the debate, EU chief diplomat Josep Borrel said he agreed with the assessment of the situation in Belarus, which was given by the majority of parliamentarians and added that “the EU Foreign Affairs Council will deal with this issue.”