‘Admiration for courage and resolve’: MEPs address people of Belarus

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, European lawmakers Miriam Lexmann (Slovakia) and Andrius Kubilius (Lithuania) have come with an initiative to address an open letter to the people of Belarus.

Ms Lexmann posted the letter on Twitter on Thursday afternoon. Apart from her and Mr Kubilius, it was signed by Sandra Kalniete (Latvia), Heidi Hautala (Finland), Tomasz Frankowski (Poland), Petras Auštrevičius (Lithuania), Ivan Štefanec (Slovakia), Sergey Lagodinsky (Germany), Siegfried Mureșan (Romania), Reinhard Bütikofer (Germany). The signers represent three political groups in the European Parliament: the European People’s Party (EPP), Greens/European Free Alliance, and Renew Europe.

“As elected Members of the European Parliament and friends of the Belarusian people, we would like to express our admiration for the courage and resolve shown by you during these testing times and thus compensated to the extent possible the failure of the Belarusian authorities to recognise the magnitude of the potential spread of COVID-19 and consequantly to take adequate measures. The scale of self-organisation by ordinary citizens, who are generously helping one another as well as the most vulnerable, and the bravery shown by health care workers is a testimony to this,” the letter reads.

Belarusian civil society steps forward as strongman defies coronavirus threat

On behalf of the EU, the deputies pledged to render further assistance to Belarus (e.g. €60mln from the Team Europe package) so that the adverse effect of the pandemic could be tackled in more efficient way.

“As part of the Team Europe package, Belarus will also benefit from a regional programme of €30 mln for medical devices and supplies, as well as a €10 mln Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme to help the most affected parts of the population. Further €11.3 mln has already been made available in small grants to civil society organisations,“ the MEPs said.

Notably, in view of the 2020 presidential campaign, they called on the Belarusian government to ensure free, fair and safe conduct of the elections in the period preceding it and on the election day, in accordance with OSCE standards and advise of health experts.

“The current pandemic will make the world more complex and fragmented, but the need to uphold fundamental values and dignity of every person will be ever more vital,” the authors stressed.

As reported earlier, during a recent meeting of the EP Committee on Foreign Affairs. Miriam Lexmann mentioned the Belarusian activists’ contribution to combatting the coronavirus pandemic and urged the EU officials to seize the opportunity to win the Belarusian people’s hearts and minds and support the ‘genuine civil society’ in the country.

In response, Oliver Varhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, stated that the pandemic provided Belarus and the EU with a ‘historical opportunity to turn the tide and try to build a positive momentum in relations’.

EU, Belarus have ‘unique opportunity’ to turn tide – official