Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Moldova

Joint press conference on Belarus by the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission

20/08/2020 - 08:49
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Charles Michel:

  • Today we discussed the increasingly concerning situation in Belarus.
  • The EU stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus. We do not accept impunity.
  • The elections were neither free nor fair. We do not accept the results presented by the Belarus authorities.
  • The people of Belarus have the right to choose their leaders and shape their future.
  • In the wake of these elections, the Belarusian people have taken to the streets from all walks of life.
  • The violence against these peaceful protesters was unacceptable. We condemn and expect a thorough and transparent investigation.
  • Strong civil society and independent media are important elements. They must be protected from arbitrary arrest and violence.
  • The protests are not about geopolitics. This is about a national process of people wanting to elect their future and determine their own fate.
  • The EU will shortly impose sanctions on a substantial number of individuals responsible for violence, repression of peaceful protest, and falsification of election results.
  • We call on the Belarusian authorities to find a peaceful way out of the crisis by ending the violence, de-escalating tensions, and launching an inclusive national dialogue..
  • All parties, including third states, should support this process.
  • We are ready to support it and contribute to efforts to peacefully end the crisis.
  • The EU fully supports the OSCE proposal for dialogue and is ready to provide assistance.
  • To the people of Belarus: we stand by your side in your exercise of fundamental rights and your desire for a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future.
  • We discussed the Eastern Mediterranean. We expressed our full solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. We reiterated our positions on the illegal activities of Turkey. We agreed to revert to those issues during our EUCO in September. All options will be on the table.
  • We raised the events in Mali. These are of deep concern and can have a destabilising effect on the whole region, and on the fight against terrorism.

Ursula von der Leyen:

  • The people of Belarus want change, and they want it now,.
  • We are impressed by the courage of the people of Belarus.
  • For exactly 10 days since the elections, the people of Belarus have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers.
  • They demand the release of detained, speech and assembly freedoms, persecution of those responsible for violence, new, free and fair elections.
  • We stand by the people of Belarus who want fundamental freedoms and democracy.
  • We will sanction all those responsible for violence, repression and falsification of election results.
  • The people of Belarus took peacefully to the streets and the authorities responded with unacceptable violence.
  • Ready to accompany peaceful democratic transfer of power in Belarus.
  • We already provide a lot through the EaP. Now it is more important than ever to mobilise €53 million to support the Belarusian people, €2 million to support victims of violence, €1 million for civil society and independent media, and €50 million for coronavirus support – health, vulnerable groups, enterprises, social services.
  • As we increase our support, we must hold responsible those responsible for what is taking place.
  • Targeted sanctions on specific persons without hurting the people.
  • The Commission stands ready to support and the list should be adopted ASAP.
  • We stand ready to accompany peaceful democratic transition of power. Support dialogue between authority and opposition. Support the role of the OSCE. It is not so much a mediation role but for opening communication channels in Belarus.
  • The demonstrations in Belarus are not against any neighbouring country or entity. They are for the rights of the people in Belarus and their legitimate right to determine the future path of their country.
  • The EU stands at their side. The violence has to stop. The future of Belarus must be decided by the Belarusian people from within.

 

Reuters: In recent hours, Lukashenka ordered people to take down protestors in Minsk. What is your reaction?

PEC: Message is very clear: stop the violence. We do not tolerate impunity. This is why we will have sanctions – to target the officials involved in violence, repression and falsification of elections. Will continue to follow the situation and developments closely. The fact that we had the summit today sends a very clear message to the Belarusian authorities.

SZ: You have repeated that you want to sanction those responsible. Will Lukashenka be included? What is the timeframe?

PEC: It is a process at the European level. It is the responsibility of the different committees in the Council to take the decision. We will take the decision shortly and the listing of Lukashenka will be deliberated.

PCOM: Exactly as PEC said, the Commission stands ready to support. FMs were very clear and now EUCO too. We are working for a specific list as soon as possible.

The Guardian: You spoke to President Putin yesterday. Is Russia an ally or a destabilising force in Belarus and what do you want the Russian government to be doing?

PEC: We sent a very clear message: the future of Belarus has to be decided by the people in Belarus, not in Brussels or in Moscow. We want all to be in favour of a national, inclusive dialogue. We had a constructive conversation. We need to find a constructive, peaceful solution in Belarus. The people in Belarus have the fundamental right to elect freely their leadership.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty: Did  you get any assurances from Russia that they would not militarily intervene in Belarus?

Are you demanding a re-run of  the elections?

PEC: Talks with Putin were focussed on need for national dialogue in Belarus and we need to avoid negative external interference. Was a very constructive and frank discussion. You might have seen statements from the Kremlin that they do not intend to intervene militarily in recent hours.

PCOM: It is the Belarusian people who demand a re-run of truly free and fair elections. We support the Belarusian people in them choosing the path that they want to go down. It is their decision as to where they want to lead their country. They must be free to decide and determine how they want to shape their country.

Politico: Did you reach out to Transatlantic partners to coordinate on this? How can we avoid a repetition of Ukraine – with the annexation of Crimea? What has the EU learned?

PEC: As the EU, we have our own strategy and interests, but of course we have contacts with the US. We will introduce targeted sanctions on those responsible for the violence, repression and results falsification, and we support the Belarusian people in determining their future.

Athanasios: Can we see today’s discussion as a prequel to the discussion on Turkey in September, particularly on sanctions? At least two Member States feel that similar urgency should be put on that situation.

PEC: The solidarity of the EUCO with Cyprus and Greece was again stressed by the European Council. There will be a physical EUCO in Brussels in September so as to go into the details and determine a united strategy for the EU’s relations with Turkey. All options will be on the table. We continue to follow the situation closely and our unity with Greece and Cyprus is real – not just words. We will go into the substance in the near future.

PCOM: These are two different situations. We have a long history with Turkey of opportunities but also conflicts. The relationship with Turkey will be the subject of Gymnich but also of EUCO. All options will be on the table. There needs to be a willingness on all sides to engage in a problem solving dialogue. There are conflicts out there and we need to solve them.

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