The EU's relations with Belarus are guided by the Council Conclusions of 15 February 2016. The EU is open to the further development of EU-Belarus relations, and to taking further steps to enhance political relations and sectoral cooperation in the appropriate context.Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal freedoms, the rule of law, and human rights, remain fundamental criteria for shaping the EU's future policy towards Belarus.
The release of the remaining political prisoners from Belarusian jails on 22 August 2015 was a positive turning-point and led the EU to the decision to lift most of the restrictive measures in February 2016, also activating a key package of economic and other cooperation-related measures. The package included cooperation with international financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), enhanced preparations for World Trade Organisation (WTO) accession, and the removal of textile quotas for exports.
The remaining restrictive measures (an embargo on arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression; an asset freeze; and a travel ban against four people listed in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist in 1999 and in 2000) are currently in place until 28 February 2021. All decisions regarding EU restrictive measures require unanimity among the 27 EU Member States.
The European Union takes the situation regarding human rights and democracy in Belarus very seriously, especially when it comes to the freedom of assembly and association, fundamental labour standards, and freedom of speech and the media. Belarus is the only country in Europe where the death penalty is still in use. The European Union has an unequivocal stance regarding the death penalty, which violates the right to life and is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The remaining death sentences should be commuted and a moratorium introduced as a first step towards its abolition. The EU stands ready to support implementation of Belarus’ 'National Action Plan on Human Rights for 2016-2019', underpinning the process of domestic reforms and the legislative amendments, and the preparation of a new plan following the 3rd Universal Periodic Review in 2020
The EU repeatedly raises human rights issues, including the death penalty, with the Belarusian authorities at all levels. The EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue resumed in July 2015 and takes place annually with the most recent dialogue held in June 2019. Civil society representatives participate in these meetings.
Belarus has been participating actively in the multilateral formats of the Eastern Partnership. In 2019 Belarus hosted a number of technical level meetings on spectrum coordination, benchmarking of telecom markets, development of broadband strategies as well as a panel on migration and integrated border management. In 2018, the 10th round of informal ministerial dialogues took place in Minsk. Negotiations on the EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities (PPs) started in 2016 and are close to completion. This document, once concluded, will be an important and unprecedented building-block in EU's relations with Belarus and will set the strategic framework and enhance cooperation in all areas, including human rights, nuclear safety, good governance and rule of law.
The EU-Belarus Coordination Group was established in 2016 to provide a forum for policy dialogue at the level of senior officials. The Coordination Group steers cooperation between the EU and Belarus and oversees the further development of relations. The latest Coordination Group meeting took place on 17-18 December 2019. During each meeting, in keeping with the European Union's policy of cooperation and involvement of civil society, the EU encourages Belarusian authorities to consult widely with all stakeholders.