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IP/06/1593

Brussels, 21 November 2006

EU-Belarus: New message to the people of Belarus

Today, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner is launching a document setting out what the EU could bring to Belarus, were Belarus to engage in democratisation and respect for human rights and rule of law. The document is being transmitted to the Belarus authorities today both in Minsk and Brussels. It contains concrete examples of how the people of Belarus could gain from a rapprochement between the EU and Belarus within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). Due to the current political conditions, it has so far not been possible for the EU to offer to Belarus the full advantages of the ENP, which are already enjoyed by other countries in the region including Ukraine and Moldova. The paper makes clear that “the people of Belarus are the first victims of the isolation imposed by the country’s authorities, and will be the first to reap the benefits on offer to a democratic Belarus”.

Commissioner Ferrero Waldner said: “The people of Belarus have a right to know what they are missing. Our message is that as soon as the country indicates a willingness to move towards true democracy, human rights and rule of law, we will be ready to enter into a full partnership with Belarus within the framework of the ENP. That would mean a significant increase in assistance - to bring a host of improvements to Belarusians’ quality of life.”

She added: “I hope the people of Belarus will see this paper as a chance to look towards a democratic future, and that the government of Belarus will take this opportunity to begin the reforms their people need, and end their isolation.”

The ENP is a special relationship between the EU and its neighbours, which supports political, economic and social reform in partner countries, and seeks to share the prosperity and stability enjoyed by EU member states with those on the EU’s borders. The EU is already working with Belarus’ neighbours and would like to build such a relationship with Belarus.

If Belarus respected human rights, democracy and rule of law, respecting its commitments as a member of the UN and of the OSCE, Belarus could become a full participant in the ENP. The EU and Belarus would work together to achieve improvements in people’s lives including:

  • new trade opportunities to boost the Belarusian economy and create more and better job opportunities
  • improve provision of healthcare and education and support for the most vulnerable in society
  • improved transport and energy networks, and management of environmental issues
  • reform of the legal and judicial system to ensure equal rights for all
  • greater cross-border co operation.

What can the Belarusian government do to open up these opportunities?

For these possibilities to be open to the Belarusian people, the Belarusian authorities need to respect the rights of the people of Belarus:

  • to elect their leaders democratically,
  • to express themselves freely, and have access to independent information,
  • to set-up associations,
  • to fair and transparent treatment by the judicial system.

No one should be imprisoned for having expressed their opinion and no one should be denied the right to participate fully in the determination of their country’s future.

Background

The EC has long demonstrated its willingness to support the people of Belarus by assisting regions and people suffering from the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe and by contributing, for example, to the fight against women trafficking at the borders of Belarus.

The EC has also consistently granted assistance to democratisation and civil society in Belarus. In 2006, key projects were launched to support independent media and broadcasting to Belarus, as well as the European Humanity University in exile in Vilnius and exchanges with Belarusian students.

Details on current EC assistance to Belarus can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/external_relations/belarus/intro/index.htm


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