The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) will consider restoring Special Guest status for the Belarusian National Assembly on June 23, Andrea Rigoni, PACE’s rapporteur on Belarus, said at a meeting with Valery Ivanow, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives, in Minsk on Monday.
Mr. Rigoni said that Uladzimir Andreychanka, chairman of the Belarusian lower parliamentary chamber, had been invited to attend the session. "He will be given an opportunity to express his opinion not only on the report prepared by me but also on prospects for the further development of relations between Belarus and the Council of Europe," he noted.
Mr. Ivanow said that the Belarusian authorities were satisfied with "the results of the report’s discussion in the PACE Political Affairs Committee and we are hopeful of further cooperation."
The restoration of Special Guest status for the Belarusian legislature would be a "logical step" by the Council of Europe, according to Mr. Ivanow. "Belarus has recently taken a number of specific steps in line with the Council of Europe’s expectations. The positive decision by the PACE Political Affairs Committee is a confirmation of Belarus’ open policy as far as it concerns a rapprochement with Europe," he said.
Belarus’ national legislature held Special Guest status in PACE between 1992 and 1997. The status was suspended in 1997 following a November 1996 national referendum condemned by foreign observers as undemocratic. Shortly after that, Belarus’s application to join the Council of Europe was frozen, and it remains the only European nation that is not a member of the organization.
Special Guest status was created by PACE in the 1990s to help countries meet the conditions to become full members of the Council of Europe. It enables parliamentarians to take part in the Assembly’s activities, but without the right to vote.