Updated at 16:11,02-12-2016

Outgoing head of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Working Group pessimistic about Belarus

Uta Zapf, the outgoing chairperson of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, told Deutsche Welle that she was "full of pessimism" about the situation in Belarus.

Ms. Zapf, a member of Germany's Bundestag who had headed the Group since 2002, said that she deeply regretted the "oppression" citizens of Belarus experience.

Neither NGOs, which help political each other and political prisoners, nor international organizations have made any progress in Belarus, she said.

In fact, the situation is so bad it would be entire appropriate to fall into depression, Ms. Zapf said.

She said that the European Union's sanctions and attempts at dialogue had both failed. Germany and the EU have devised a number of very appealing projects for Belarus, offering their know-hows and help with developing the country's infrastructure and rule-of-law system, but the offers have all been rejected because Alyaksandr Lukashenka's only goal is to stay in power, Ms. Zapf said.

Ms. Zapf suggested that the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly should "forget about politics" and focus on social and educational projects if it wanted to engage with Belarus.

The Assembly should not abandon its dialogue with Belarus, but it should not waste time looking for contacts with Belarusian officials or expect talks to succeed, she said.

Thirdly, Germans should create opportunities for the largest possible number of people from Belarus to spend a couple of months in their country studying, working or resting, Ms. Zapf said. This would help Belarusians overcome any remaining prejudices, she said.

Uta Zapf, who has repeatedly been accused by Minsk of bias, will no longer be able to be on the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus, as she has decided not to run in Bundestag elections scheduled for this fall. A new chairperson for the Group may be elected during the Assembly's session to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, in June.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group on Belarus was set up in October 1998 in order to assist in the development of democracy in Belarus and facilitate dialogue between the government and opposition forces in the country.