Ashton: “No place for political prisoners at the heart of Europe”

The presence of Belarusian Foreign Minister Martynau gave an opportunity to convey the EU’s deep concern as regards the lack of respect for human rights, the rule of law and independent media in Belarus, Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said at the press conference following the Eastern Partnership ministerial meeting in Brussels on July 23, 2012.
According to the top official, reforms and genuine commitment to common values of freedom, democracy and human rights remain the underpinning elements of the Partnership. She welcomes the good progress achieved by some partners in the area but believes that more work is still needed.
“We stressed the importance of the immediate release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners, of reversing the current repressive policies and of free and fair parliamentary elections in September. Our message to Belarus was clear: there is no place for political prisoners at the heart of Europe,” Ashton said.
At the same time the European Union remains attached to a policy of critical engagement with Belarus, the High Representative noted. “The Eastern Partnership provides an important platform to expose Belarus to democratic values and the virtues of European cooperation. For the people of Belarus we are ready to deepen cooperation once the political situation has changed,” she pointed out.
Over 240 members of the Belarusian nomenklatura are currently forbidden from entering the EU or doing business in the single market. As the EU took a decision to leave a door ajar, Siarhei Martynau, the current Minister for Foreign Affairs, is not on the travel ban list.
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