EU still concerned over freedom of expression and assembly in Belarus

The situation as regards freedom of expression and assembly in Belarus continues to be of concern, the representatives of the EU Delegation said at the meeting of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group in Minsk on April 24-25.

The EU reiterated its opposition to the death penalty under any circumstances and advocated the introduction by Belarus of a moratorium as a first step to its abolition.

The delegations discussed the state of play on EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities, which, once concluded, will mark a new phase of engagement between the EU and Belarus and shape future cooperation based on common interests. The EU expressed its commitment to the swift conclusion of the negotiations on EU-Belarus Partnership Priorities.

On nuclear safety, the Belarusian authorities provided an update on the preparation of the National Action Plan for the implementation of the Stress Test Peer Review recommendations and the EU stressed the importance of continued cooperation with European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group in the next steps of the process.

For the first time, the meeting also included a discussion on prospects for cooperation in the area of good governance, following up on a presentation of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Support for Improvement in Governance and Management (SIGMA) programme that took place back-to-back with the Coordination Group. The EU reiterated the need for Belarus to undertake comprehensive reform of its electoral legislation, in line with the OSCE)/ODIHR and Venice Commission recommendations.

The EU presented its on-going and planned financial assistance programmes, which have doubled to approximately €30 million per year since 2016. The delegations discussed how to enhance the impact of different financial assistance tools and how the EU can support reforms and modernisation in Belarus in order to deliver concrete results for citizens.

The EU and Belarus also discussed the state of and prospects for enhanced sectoral cooperation, including in the areas of economy and finance, trade, digital economy, private sector development, customs, transport, agriculture, environment, education and youth, labour, employment, social protection, research and innovation.

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