The Council of Europe considers it necessary to develop a dialogue with Belarus but sees no possibilities for it so far, Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of the Council of Europe, told reporters in Moscow on May 9.
Mr. Jagland condemned March’s execution of two convicts in Belarus, noting that a country cannot become a member of the Council of Europe if it continues applying the death penalty.
All European countries but Belarus are part of one family as far as it concerns the supremacy of law, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported with reference to Mr. Jagland.
When asked whether the Council of Europe and Belarus could improve their relations while Alyaksandr Lukashenka is in power, Mr. Jagland said that the organization does not engage in changing regimes. The Council of Europe secretary of general said that he is aware that Belarus lacks a democratic process that would allow its people to change its government. However, he added, the Council of Europe cannot interfere in the internal affairs of individual countries, in particular of non-members.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in late April adopted a resolution providing for the suspension of high-level contacts with Belarusian officials amid "a lack of progress" in the country toward the Council’s standards.
The Assembly expressed regret over recent developments in the country, including the executions of Andrey Zhuk and Vasil Yuzepchuk this past March, the government’s treatment of the Polish minority and "the absence of international observers during the local elections, as well as the authorities’ refusal to permit the establishment of the Council of Europe’s East European School of Political Studies."
But the Assembly stressed that it was still prepared to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the Belarusian authorities "in response to positive developments," and reiterated its conviction that the "dialogue can be sustained only through Belarus’ continuous progress toward Council of Europe standards."
In June 2009, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly decided that the Belarusian parliament’s Special Guest status in the Assembly might be restored only after Minsk declared a moratorium on the death penalty. Such a moratorium is one of the conditions set by the European Union for a travel ban against a number of Belarusian government officials to be lifted in October 2010.
Belarus is the only country in Europe and the post-Soviet region where the death sentence remains a sentencing option and prisoners are executed.