At a meeting of the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs which took place on January, 12, 2012 in Strasbour Jacek Protasiewicz, Head of the Delegation for Relations with Belarus, stressed the urgent need in obtaining accurate information on confinement conditions of political prisoners whose life and health are jeopardized.
To his opinion, the situation in Belarus has gone from bad to very bad. Although Brussels was quite optimistic in 2010 about the prospects for developing relations with Belarus, any cooperation became impossible after the violent suppression of post-election protests in Minsk on December 19, Mr. Protasiewicz said. Since then, the government has repeatedly subjected political opponents, human rights defenders and civil society activists to pressure and persecution. In addition, the powers of the existing authorities have been considerably broadened.
Mrs. Maira Mora, Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus shared this opinion noting that on the first anniversary of the 2010 presidential election 32 Belarusians were detained and convicted. At the end of November, 2011 new repressive laws legitimizing old order and turning administrative responsibility for unsanctioned protests into criminal one were adopted, she said.
According to the MEPs, the sale of Belarusian gas transport company Beltransgaz to Russian gas company Gazprom and the loans provided by Russia allowed Belarus of arresting the collapse of national economy but swept away the necessity for reform. In the situation of expanding the Russian influence on Belarus the EU Commission ought to weigh all the pros and cons of introducing new sanctions.
The EU considers adding 135 new people to the bloc’s existing travel ban and asset-freeze list that currently targets more than 200 Belarusians, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, said Mr. Gunnar Wiegand, director for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and the OSCE at the Service. There are also plans to ban one or two Belarusian companies more from doing business in the EU, according to an EU diplomat.
The EU wants to reinforce its restrictive measures in order to punish those responsible for the ongoing crackdown on journalists, human rights defenders and other civil society activists in the country, the diplomat said, adding that a decision to extend the blacklist might be made at a meeting of the EU foreign ministers on January 23.
Talking about the fate of the 2014 Ice Hockey World championship, Mr. Wiegand mentioned that the final decision should be made by the International ice Hockey Federation. He pointed out that although the ban on staging of the championship might be an effective sanction against official Minsk it would affect the interests of average Belarusians as well.
Marek Migalski, a Polish member of the European Parliament, stated that prior stick and carrot European policy towards Belarus yielded no result. He stressed the point that life and health of the political prisoners are put on jeopardy and that is why immediate measures should be taken. Mr. Migalski called on MEPs to remember Dzmitry Bandarenka who might die any day.
It is the political prisoners who make the EU Parliament pay such regard to the Belarusian issue. A wide response was evoked by Ales Bialiatski’s case. The human rights activist was arrested after the Belarusian authorities had received information on his banking accounts from Poland and Lithuania. Although the officials of the General Prosecutor Office of Poland having reported data on Bialiatski were admittedly dissmised, such cooperation with a dictatorship should not be recurred, representatives of the EU Parliament pointed out.