Belarus needs more real help from the EU, Belarusian dissidents tell MEPs (02/04/2012)
The EU should provide more real help, not just "seminars and resolutions", if it wants real change in Belarus, Belarusian dissidents told MEPs and their partners from Eastern countries in the Azerbaijani Parliament on Monday.
"What we expect from you is concrete action - proposals for your financial, technical and political support. A lot of things have been said from your side but obviously this is not a way to influence Alexander Lukashenko", said Alexei Yanukevich, of the Belarusian People's front.
Parliament's moral support is highly appreciated, but that real instruments of change are missing, said Belarussian dissident Alexander Milinkevich, who won the European Parliament's Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought in 2006. Other dissidents were even harsher: "The policy of the EU is very weak. The sanctions you are imposing are not real sanctions, only warnings. We need real plans, money and conditions, not just seminars and resolutions".
MEPs agreed that, especially giventhe recent execution of two men - despite calls from Parliament and other EU institutions for Mr Lukashenko to halt it - showed that the EU's dual policy of openness to and sanctions against Belarus had failed, and that a "third way" must be found. Participants agreed that this third way should be a long-term investment for change in Belarusian society that could in turn stimulate political change, too.
MEPs and their counterparts from Eastern neighbourhood parliaments met the four Belarusian civil society and opposition representatives in a working group on Belarus, on the fringe of the the second ordinary session of Euronest inter-parliamentary assembly taking place from 2 to 4 April in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The ultimate aim of the Belarus working group is for the Belarusian parliament to join the Euronest Parliamentary Assembly as a fully fledged member. To be eligible, Belarus needs to hold free and fair elections recognized by the international organizations (OSCE). Current developments in Belarus suggest that this prospect is becoming less likely, rather than more so, said group chair MEP Jacek Sarysz-Wolski (EPP, PL).
Mr Sarysz-Wolski admitted that it would also be premature to state today's Euronest group meeting had brought Belarus a step closer to joining Euronest, as the Belarusian government had declined an invitation to take part. "We are now more aware of the complex situation in Belarusian society. Keeping this topic on the agenda displays our hope that one day; members of Belarusian parliament will fill their empty seats in Euronest", he said.
The working group agreed to table a proposal in the Euronest plenary session to extend the working group's mandate until the Belarusian parliament becomes a full member of Euronest.
Two other representatives of Belarus who were invited were unable to attend because it had detained them. The movement of people across the EU-Belarusian border has proven difficult. At the end of last year, two Euronest representatives - MEP Ivars Godmanis (LV, ALDE) and co-chair of the Belarus working group Dumitru Diacov (Moldova parliament), were denied Belarusian visas on the grounds that these could not be granted until the Belarusian parliament is granted the right to participate in Euronest.
Euronest is a working platform where MEPs meet their counterparts from five of the EU's eastern neighbouring countries. Belarus has been denied the right to take part due to its failure to hold elections that are recognised by the international community as free and democratic.
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