Political prisoners pushed to sidelines: EU to reassess dialogue with Lukashenka

Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey took part in a meeting of the foreign ministers of the states-parties to the Eastern Partnership initiative which discussed the current state of affairs and prospects for cooperation in this initiative.

The Ministerial Meeting focused on the EaP implementation after the 2013 Vilnius Summit as well as the prospects of future development and possible reformatting taking into account the current situation in the region and the signing by Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine of the Association Agreements with the EU, the Belarusian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reports. The ministers also discussed preparation for the EaP forth Summit to be held in Riga (Latvia) on 22 May 2015.

In his plenary statement Mr Makey outlined Belarus’ principal approaches towards the development of the relations with the European Union and participation in the Eastern Partnership. He stressed the necessity for a greater differentiation in the relations of the EU with the EaP Partner Countries with account taken of their needs, interests and integration aspirations. Particular attention was drawn to the importance of harmonizing different integration processes and engaging third countries, first of all Russia, in the EaP activities in order to avoid creation of new dividing lines in the region.

‘Of course, we were discussing sanctions, problems in Belarus-EU relations. We realise that these problems canot be solved immediately but we should create positive atmosphere in our relations; perhaps, with the help of small steps. There are lots of fields in which we are able to establish beneficial cooperation, and I am sure that sanctions will be lifted some day,’ Mr Makey told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Being asked about the Belarusian political prisoners Mr Makey showed his surprise: ‘I do not understand what you mean. None of our European colleagues can show me a list of political prisoners or voice their exact number. Indeed, there are prisoners in Belarus but they were punished for breaking laws, which has nothing in commong with politics.’

Linas Linkevičius, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister, believes that the relations between Belarus and the bloc are to be reassessed. The official noted positive improvements in Belarus’s foreign policy but admitted that the problem of release and rehabilitation of political prisoners had not been tackled yet.

{movie}Linas Linkevičius on the reassessment of the dialogue with Belarus (5:07)|right|17601{/movie}

‘It is time to reassess our dialogue and relations, we cannot neglect the position of Belarus on very important issues, they do not share some sanctions introduced by Russia in the context of the customs union. On the other hand there are problems, there still are political prisoners, we still have questions but we should talk to them and I will do that, I will go to Minsk and try to find common ground on some issues. There is some movement towards a rapprochement, we have to keep the dialogue open,’ Mr Linkevičius said.


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