The European Union is paying very close attention to the situation in Belarus in the run-up to the presidential elections, Josep Borrell, EU High Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, stated during Thursday’s plenary session in the European Parliament.
“We are concerned about the restrictions on freedom of assembly and speech, including reported detentions of peaceful protesters, bloggers and journalists. The harassment and persecution of the leading opposition candidates has to stop. Fundamental freedoms have to be respected and each candidate and voter must be able to exercise their civil and political rights. We expect to be invited by Belarus as soon as possible to observe the upcoming presidential elections,” he said.
According to the top diplomat, the EU is Belarus’ 2nd largest trade partner and closer economic cooperation is of ‘mutual interest’.
“We should remain open to further development of our relations with Belarus and continue supporting Belarus’ sovereignty and independence. However, this development can only be based on positive steps in the area of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms,” the statement reads.
The 9th of August presidential elections will be very much important in charting the way forward and in defining further relations with Belarus, Josep Borrell stressed.