Bundestag shows solidarity in opposition to Belarus' Lukashenko
The regime of President Lukashenko in Belarus was universally condemned by the German parliament on Thursday. Speakers from all parties said Lukascheno's crackdown on opposition parties could not be tolerated.
An end to repression and human rights violations and a strengthening of civil society are just some of the measures that the German parliament wants to see introduced in Belarus.
At a parliamentary session on Thursday, the coalition parties together with the opposition Social Democrats and Greens universally condemned Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Lukashenko recently claimed victory in elections in December which were disputed by opposition groups and Western governments. Hundreds of opposition supporters and many of the country's opposition leaders were arrested after they took to the streets to protest the election, which they said was rigged.
Before the elections, it was hoped a change in leadership could bring democracy to Belarus and forge closer links with Europe. However, since election night elementary human rights have been further trampled by the regime.
The parliament welcomed the move by EU foreign ministers to introduce sanctions on Belarus, including an asset freeze on Lukashenko and other key officials.
"We won't be fall for Lukashenko's tricks any more," said Free Democrat politician Bijan Djir-Sarai.
He was supported by his colleague Karl-Georg Wellmann from the Christian Democrats, who compared the contrasting reactions to the recent elections in Brazil with those in Belarus.
"In Brazil, when Rousseff won with 56 percent of the vote, they celebrated by samba dancing for 14 days. In Belarus, where Lukashenko was supposedly elected with 80 percent, there has been silence. This is the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship," Wellmann said.
Stefan Liebich, speaker for the Left party, said Lukashenko could not just hope that the rest of the world was being distracted by the turbulence in North Africa.
"We are on the side of those who advocate democracy, freedom and human rights," said Liebich.
Lifting visa restrictions?
The Left party, together with the Greens, demanded complete visa freedom for citizens from Belarus. They argued that since Poland and several Baltic states were included in Europe's visa-free Schengen zone, it has hampered the ability of normal Belarusians to travel to neighboring countries.
Their visa request was rejected by the Social Democrats and the coalition parties. However, concessions were made to cut red tape for Belarusian students to help them access free visas. All parties pledged that for students who had protested against Lukashenko, enrolment and scholarship opportunities would be made available in Germany.
Despite these small differences on the question of visas, the message from the Bundestag was clear. Lukashenko's crackdown on opposition parties and his vice-like grip on power in Belarus would no longer be tolerated.