Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

Opposition politicians attending session of EU-Neighborhood East Parliamentary Assembly

By Syarhey Karalevich, BelaPAN

Representatives of nine Belarusian opposition parties and groups are attending a session of the EU-Neighborhood East Parliamentary Assembly (Euronest PA) that opened in Brussels on March 21.

The politicians are scheduled to take part in a meeting of Euronest PA's working group on Belarus on Tuesday. On the same day, they will attend a meeting of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs to express their opinion of current relations between Belarus and the European Union. At the same meeting Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU special representative for human rights, will speak about his recent visit to Minsk.

The delegation includes representatives of, among other organizations, the Hramada Belarusian Social Democratic Party, the Movement for Freedom, the "Tell the Truth!" movement, the United Civic Party, the Spravedlivy Mir (Just World) Belarusian Party of the Left, Belarusian Christian Democracy (BCD) and the Belarusian Popular Front (BPF).

BCD Co-chairman Vital Rymashewski said that most of the politicians would likely make a joint statement urging the EU to demand that the Belarusian government hold free and fair parliamentary elections this year.

BPF leader Alyaksey Yanukevich said that the party welcomed the resumption of dialogue between Belarus and the EU, which he said has already helped secure the release of political prisoners and reduce the level of violence against opposition activists. At the same time, he said, the EU should put forward more conditions for Minsk as part of their dialogue.

Members of the House of Representatives were not invited to the session.

According to Mr. Yanukevich, the Belarusian authorities insist that the lower parliamentary chamber should be invited to join Euronest PA. "This is an important issue to them," he said. The Belarusian opposition believes that Euronest PA may be joined by the House of Representatives only after free and fair parliamentary elections, Mr. Yanukevich stressed. "We will not let Minsk limit its actions to making some interagency commission study recommendations made by OSCE [election] observers," he said.

"Steps made by the EU to meet Minsk halfway should be accompanied by specific concessions by the Belarusian government," said Mr. Yanukevich. "Only then will dialogue benefit our country."