(updated) The Council of the European Union will discuss a new program of cooperation with Belarus at a meeting on March 23, Maja Kocijancic, spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, informed journalists.
The program is aimed at intensifying the 27-nation bloc’s cooperation with Belarusian civil society, Ms. Kocijancic said.
Following the 2010 presidential election, which was criticized by the West as flawed, the EU announced plans to step up its dialogue with Belarus’ civil society and public in general. The program in question is meant to expand the EU’s cooperation with Belarus’ civil society and opposition forces, according to Ms. Kocijancic.
At the March 23 meeting, the EU Council is also expected to consider adding Belarusian businesses and businesspeople to the EU’s blacklist.
On March 14, 2012 the European Parliament is to debate the current situation in Belarus in the course of the plenary session in Strasbourg. According to the schedule, it will be considered along with four other issues from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.(CET).
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton is expected to make a statement before parliamentaries.
After considering the results of the debate MEPs are to adopt a resolution, which will be put to a vote on March 15, 2012.
Last week EP Vice President Jacek Protasiewicz stated that the European Parliament was not going to discuss the EU-Belarus diplomatic row during the March 12-15 plenary session in Strasbourg because the EP had decided to give official Minsk two weeks for deliberation.
Mr. Protasiewicz noted that the diplomatic row escalated to the extent that «there is only one step to be made towards the diplomatic break, i.e. asking Belarusian ambassadors to the EU member countries to leave for consultations. Thus, limiting the diplomatic relations to the level that currently exists between Minsk and Washington.»
On February 28, 2012 official Minsk recommended Head of the EU Delegation to the Republic of Belarus and Ambassador of Poland to Belarus to return to their capitals for consultations and «to convey to their leadership a firm position of the Belarusian side on inadmissibility of pressure and sanctions». The country also recalled its own ambassadors from Brussels and Warsaw. It was the reaction of Belarus that was caused by the EU Council decision to blacklist another 21 Belarusian officials.