Updated at 11:44,21-11-2017

EU lifts sanctions against Belarusian authorities

By Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union decided Monday not to extend the blocs restrictive measures against 170 Belarusian citizens, including Alyaksandr Lukashenka, and three companies.

However, entry bans and asset freezes were left in force for four persons involved in unresolved disappearances in Belarus in 1999 and 2000, namely, former Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumaw, former Prosecutor General Viktar Sheyman, former Interior Minister Yury Sivakow, and Dzmitry Pawlichenka, a former commander of an Interior Troops unit.

The Council said in its Conclusions on Belarus that the restrictive measures against the four individuals who were blacklisted in connection with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians, one businessman and one journalist would be extended for a period of 12 months.

The Council also prolonged the embargo on arms sales for one year.

The Council noted that the release of all remaining political prisoners in August 2015 and the fact that last years presidential election was held in an environment free from violence, prompted the EU to suspend most of the restrictive measures in October 2015.

The council also noted Belarus' constructive role in the region and the steps taken by Belarus to improve its relations with the EU.

The Council recognizes that there is an opportunity for EU-Belarus relations to develop on a more positive agenda, and that progress in a variety of fields can better be achieved through enhanced channels of communication, the Conclusions read.

The Council urged the Belarusian government to implement the OSCE-ODIHRs recommendations on elections in view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, impose a moratorium on the death penalty, reinstate the civil and political rights of former political prisoners, ensure freedom of association and assembly, including by allowing the registration of political and civil society organizations, allow civil society to be more involved in discussions on government policy, and eliminate all obstacles to the development of free and independent media, including through the registration of new media outlets and the accreditation of journalists.

The Council welcomed the resumption of the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue and Belarus proposal that its next round be held in Minsk in late spring.

The Council called on Belarus to fully cooperate with UN special procedures, including the special rapporteur on the human rights situations in Belarus, and increase cooperation with the Council of Europe with a view to becoming a full member.

The Council noted the EU's willingness to help Belarus meet its obligations towards democratization and full respect for human rights, and accelerate the implementation of measures aimed at enhancing EU-Belarus cooperation in a number of economic, trade and assistance related fields, with the goal of modernizing Belarus and its economy and for the benefit of the Belarusian population, including in view of WTO accession and in cooperation with International Financial Institutions, in particular the EIB and the EBRD in line with their respective mandates.

We welcome todays decision of the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union to lift most of its restrictive measures against Belarus and to step up cooperation with our country, Dzmitry Mironchyk, spokesperson for the Belarusian foreign ministry, said Monday in a statement.

This decision is an important stage on the way to the full normalization of relations, Mr. Mironchyk said. It opens up new opportunities for the expansion of comprehensive cooperation between Belarus and the EU and makes it possible to bring this cooperation to a qualitatively new level. We are convinced that this meets the interests of Belarus, the European Union and the European region as a whole.

The Councils decision is visual proof that dialogue is the most efficient means of resolving differences, Mr. Mironchyk noted.
We hope the decision will contribute to the strengthening of regional stability and security, he said. We are ready to make our contribution to this process. Belarus is open to continuing a constructive dialogue with the European Union and its member countries on all issues of mutual interest.