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The European Union-Belarus Coordination Group met in Minsk on 3-4 April 2017, following previous meetings in the same format in April and November 2016. The European Union delegation was led by Thomas Mayr-Harting, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia of the European External Action Service, and included representatives of the European External Action Service and the Directorates-General of the European Commission responsible for the European Neighborhood Policy, trade, energy as well as home affairs. The Belarusian side was led by Mr Oleg Kravchenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and included representatives of other relevant ministries. Experts and non-governmental organisations from Belarus also took part in the talks.
The EU delegation was also received by Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei as well as by Mr Maxim Ryzhenkov, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration.
In the context of the latest developments, the European Union delegation stressed that despite the international community's calls for restraint, the actions applied by the authorities, including preventive arrests before and a large number of arrests and detentions of peaceful protesters on 25 March, were indiscriminate and inappropriate and that such limitations to the freedom of expression and assembly were in contradiction with Belarus' stated policy of democratisation and its international commitments.
In all its meetings, the European Union delegation reiterated that tangible and irreversible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, assembly and the media, as well as the rule of law and human rights, including the abolition of the death penalty, will remain key for shaping the European Union's future policy towards Belarus and its relations with the country.
During the meetings, when discussing the new Nuclear Power Plant in Ostrovets, the European Union side stressed the need for full transparency and cooperation on nuclear safety issues.
During the European Union-Belarus Coordination Group meeting a specific session was dedicated to human rights and political freedoms. In addition, a broad list of subjects of particular importance to civil society was discussed including mobility, people to people contacts, trade, energy, customs, transport, environment, research, education, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, agriculture and social security. Both sides exchanged views on developments in the region.
The European Union delegation also presented a proposal for European Union – Belarus Partnership Priorities with a special focus on good governance, strengthening institutions and the rule of law; mobility and people to people contacts, in line with the priorities agreed by all partners at the 2015 Riga Eastern Partnership Summit.
In keeping with the European Union’s policy of cooperation and involvement of civil society, the European Union delegation encouraged the authorities to consult widely with all stakeholders, and met separately with Belarusian human rights defenders, civil society representatives and members of political opposition movements. The European Union reconfirmed its commitment to a stable, democratic and prosperous future for Belarus, for the benefit of its people, and will continue its work with all the stakeholders in achieving this important objective.