IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Belarusian National Platform Expresses Position on the Future EU-Belarus Cooperation
15 September 2015
In the light of recent revival of EU-Belarus relations, the Belarusian National Platform of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum took the opportunity to express its own position on these developments and further EU-Belarus cooperation.
Acknowledging the importance of the EU-Belarus negotiations on the Interim Phase of Modernization Dialogue, the ongoing progress towards the signing of agreement on visa facilitation, as well as the first round of the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue, the Belarusian National Platform welcomed the overall progress in the relations between Belarus and the EU. In particular, the release of the political prisoners on August 22, 2015 was noted as a significant step for Belarusian authorities towards further improvement of the relations with the EU and international community. In this context, Belarusian National Platform looks forward to further steps towards improving the human rights situation in Belarus, including issues on freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech, which are particularly important for the development of civil society.
However, the National Platform stresses upon the fact that the general political situation and the human rights situation in Belarus remains unchanged as a number of civil society activists are under criminal prosecution, all released political prisoners are under preventive supervision and experience other restrictions of their rights. The persecution of human rights defenders remains a common practice. Besides that, the freedom of media is restricted with the independent media not operating freely within the country and the persecution of independent journalists and civil society activists being a common practice. During the presidential electoral campaign, administrative pressure on voters at their workplace was recorded, while members of initiative groups of independent candidates were detained and representatives of the opposition parties were unreasonably restricted to be included in the district election commissions. Legal, financial and political conditions for the civil society organizations work also remain unfavorable.
Given these facts, Belarusian National Platform of EaP CSF draws the attention of the European Union and EU Member States to the fact that the cooperation cannot be resumed without taking into account the overall progress of the political situation and the human rights situation in Belarus. Therefore, the National Platform calls on the representatives of the European Union and EU Member States to take into account the view of the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations in their assessments of the human rights situation in Belarus and recommends forming a special group of representatives of international organizations (OSCE, Council of Europe and UN) for the assessment of the situation with human rights in Belarus to be published periodically.
Finally, being convinced that the future of the Belarus-EU cooperation should be built as a transparent and inclusive process, the National Platform expresses its hopes that the dialogue of the EU with the Belarusian authorities will fully include representatives of independent civil society organizations and, in particular, the EaP CSF Belarusian National Platform.