Tatsiana Karatkevich, a leader of the civil campaign ‘Tell the Truth’, welcomed the removal of EU sanctions on Belarusian officials.
“The campaign ‘Tell the Truth’ has always advocated for building a full-fledged dialogue between Belarus and the European Union. We consider the EU Ministers’ decision to lift sanctions an important step in this direction. Now the Belarusian authorities should make return steps, which would confirm their commitment to have a dialogue,” she said.
According to the politician, the presence or the lack of freedom of assembly and organization, tackling obstacles to independent media’s work, registration of new media and accreditation of journalists, public counting of votes at the 2016 parliamentary elections will help to assess whether the Belarusian authorities were really ready for dialogue with the EU, or they simply took a pause before the next attack on the rights and freedoms of citizens.
Karatkevich proposes to consider the lifting of sanctions as ‘gratitude to the Belarusian authorities for their balanced position in the Ukrainian-Russian conflict’. “The release of political prisoners enabled the EU to take such a decision”, she added.
“However, further cooperation with the EU provides conducting political and economic reforms in Belarus. Our country crucially needs them. If reforms are not carried out, the relations with the European Union will cool down again. I hope the authorities realize how harmful such scenario will be for Belarus,” she stressed.
At the same time, the majority of Belarusian opposition politicians, including Mikalai Statkevich, Uladzimir Nyaklyayeu and Anatol Lyabedzka, expressed disapproval of the European Union’s decision to lift its restrictive measures against Belarusian authorities.
On February 15, the European Union announced lifting sanctions against Lukashenka and 169 Belarusian officials. The bloc upheld the arms embargo on Belarus, as well as sanctions against four senior (at the time) security forces officials, whom the West believes are involved in the disappearance of political opponents of Lukashenka in 1999-2000.