Updated at 18:07,08-09-2017

Belarus' participation in Euronest PA discussed at meeting in Brussels

By Syarhey Karalevich, BelaPAN

Belarus' participation in the EU-Neighborhood East Parliamentary Assembly (Euronest PA) was discussed at a meeting in Brussels on March 22.

The meeting of the Euronest PA's working group on Belarus was attended by a delegation of Belarusian opposition politicians.

As United Civic Party (UCP) leader Anatol Lyabedzka, who was among those in attendance, told BelaPAN, almost all members of the Belarusian delegation shared the opinion that Minsk should hold free and fair elections, embark on economic reforms and ensure that Belarus remains a sovereign and European state. They raised objections to "behind-the-scenes agreements with authorities and the 'appointment' of opposition politicians to the legislature," said Mr. Lyabedzka.

Speaking about the format of Belarus' possible involvement in the Euronest PA, some members of the Parliamentary Assembly suggested that the country be represented by five members of the House of Representatives and as many opposition politicians. "But we managed to convince them that this is a premature step. The MEPs agreed that one should wait for the results of the parliamentary elections," said Mr. Lyabedzka.

Tatsyana Karatkevich, a leader of the "Tell the Truth!" movement, expressed a stance that was somewhat different to speeches made by other members of the delegation. In particular, she called for the need to use "negotiation tactics" in the European Union's dialogue with Belarusian authorities.

As Ms. Karatkevich, a former presidential candidate, told BelaPAN, she said at the meeting that a "new political reality" was taking shape in Belarus. "The main task at this stage is to create steady and visible public demand for reforms, broaden the circle of support for pro-democratic forces," she said.

Opposition forces should be able to "offer an alternative [to the government]," combine "negotiation tactics with the tactics of street events" and try to involve as many people as possible in politics, said Ms. Karatkevich.

The politician warned at the meeting that this year's parliamentary elections in Belarus should not be viewed as free and fair if government opponents won no seats in the House of Representatives.

"That's why a clear and understandable message is important: we need honest and fair elections that will result in the presence of an alternative opinion in the legislature," she said.

The delegation had been scheduled to attend a meeting of the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs on the same day but the event was cancelled in connection with Tuesday's terrorist attacks at Brussels Airport and the Maelbeek subway station.

The politicians are scheduled to fly back to Belarus on March 23 but the flight may be delayed because of the attacks, said Mr. Lyabedzka.