Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Paleckis' report indicates that situation in Belarus does not change, EU commissioner says

BelaPAN

A report drawn up by Justas Paleckis indicates that the situation in Belarus does not change, Stefan Fule, the European Union's commissioner for enlargement and neighborhood policy, said during a session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday.

Mr. Fule, who spoke on behalf of Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said that the 28-nation bloc was ready for fully fledged cooperation with Belarus, but only if Belarusian authorities released and exonerated all political prisoners and improved its human rights record.

Meanwhile, the report by Mr. Paleckis suggests that Belarus has not made any progress, he said, noting that seven political prisoners were still behind bars, that a moratorium on the death penalty so far had not been declared, and that the persecution of civil society and government critics continued.

Under these circumstances, the EU has no choice but to continue its policy of restrictive measures against Minsk, Mr. Fule said.

He noted that a number of steps toward rapprochement with the EU had been taken after the appointment of Uladzimir Makey as Belarus' foreign minister in August 2012. For instance, Belarusian authorities allowed the Swedish embassy in Minsk to resume its operation, Mr. Fule said. However, it is regrettable, among other things, that the EU has waited for two years now for a reply to its invitation to start talks on visa facilitation and readmission agreements, he said.

Other members of the European Parliament who spoke during the meeting also pointed to the release of all political prisoners as a necessary condition for reengagement with Minsk.

Mr. Paleckis said that the human rights situation in Belarus remained difficult. At the same time, Lithuania's presidency of the European Union in the latter half of 2013 and an Eastern Partnership summit to be held in Vilnius in November 2013 should be used to improve relations with Belarus and resume a political dialogue, he said. Of course, this is possible only if all political prisoners are freed, he added.