The European Union expects Belarus to hold a free and fair presidential election, Stefan Fule, the EU’s commissioner for enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, told reporters in Minsk on Monday following his meeting with Foreign Minister Syarhey Martynaw.
This would give a new serious impetus to the development of bilateral relations, Mr. Fule said. The EU is ready for deepening and expanding its relations with Belarus on the basis of European values such as democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
Mr. Martynaw said that the entire range of relations between Belarus and the EU, and ways of their development were discussed at the meeting. "The role of the election as one of the factors for the development of the relations was also discussed," he said. "Both sides spoke for the relationship between Belarus and the European Union to be deeper."
While talking to reporters ahead of the meeting with Syarhey Martynaw, the visiting commissioner described the plan as an attempt to deepen relations between the 27-nation bloc and Belarus.
The plan offers Belarus assistance from the European Union on reforms, modernization and progress in the sphere of democracy and human rights, according to Mr. Fule.
He would not speak in detail about the plan, citing the need to discuss the document with the Belarusian foreign minister first.
Mr. Fule noted that there would be no strict timeframe for the implementation of the plan and said that an in-depth discussion of the document would start only after Belarus` presidential election scheduled for December.
The European Commission has approved negotiating mandates for agreements with Belarus on visa facilitation and readmission, he said, adding that the mandates were being considered by EU member countries.
He suggested that work on the draft visa facilitation agreement could begin later this month, while work on the readmission accord could start in December. Speaking about Belarus` presidential election, Mr. Fule said that the European Union had already singled out the areas where it would like to see progress. In particular, he referred to candidate registration, the formation of election commissions, early voting, vote count, presidential candidates` access to the media, and freedom of assembly.
Mr. Fule noted certain progress but warned that the opposition`s negligible representation on election commissions did not meet the European Union`s expectations.