Socialists and Democrats call for fresh thinking on EU policy toward Belarus

 (2013 09 12)

The S&D Group today welcomed the adoption of a report including recommendations on EU policy toward Belarus.

Libor Rouček, S&D vice-president for enlargement and neighbourhood policy, said:

"The upcoming Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius should provide an impetus for fresh and innovative thinking on our policy toward Belarus and ways of encouraging positive change.

“The EU's current approach, centered on sanctions and isolation, is clearly not delivering. This does not mean we should stop trying, or give up on Belarus. Rather, it means we need a more effective and flexible policy mix, without abandoning our core principles.

“This should include greater openness to dialogue with elements of the Lukashenko regime, subject to clear conditionality and new measures to inspire bottom-up societal change, such as easing visa restrictions for ordinary Belarusians."

Justas Paleckis, S&D MEP and European Parliament rapporteur on Belarus, commented:
"We recommend taking advantage of Lithuania's presidency of the Council and the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. This represents an opportunity to improve relations with Belarus, as soon as all political prisoners have been released and a time to restart the political dialogue on democratic reforms, free and fair elections and respect for human rights. It is important that the majority of opposition parties in Belarus welcome this position.

"The situation in the country will only change when public opinion changes. And public opinion will only change if there is more contact between EU and Belarusian citizens. We should take advantage of all opportunities to strengthen such connections: the EU should open all gates, doors and even windows to encourage people-to-people contact.

"The dialogue on modernisation should strengthen people’s understanding of the need for reforms and also for the development of an appropriate social welfare safety net.

"We encourage dialogue with those officials who were not personally involved in repression, in order to enhance EU-Belarus co-operation. It is crucial to transmit information to Belarusians about EU policies and the advantages they can bring. The EU clearly needs to improve its information strategy towards Belarus."

Justas Paleckis added:

"We have just lost an amendment tabled by ALDE calling to remove the ice-hockey championship from Belarus in 2014. We voted against, but jointly the EPP, ALDE and ECR votes were enough to get it through. This is a very sensitive point which surely will hit the headlines. I therefore wish to clarify that I am strongly against the idea of taking this ice-hockey championship away from Belarus, since it does not serve the idea of engaging more deeply with Belarusian people."

Source: S&D Group in the European Parliament, Newsroom ©,  2013 06 20