Updated at 11:50,16-10-2017

Paleckis' report proposes no visas for Belarusians

Vital Ruhain, Euroradio

Euroradio spots 292 amendments in MEP Justas Paleckis's Belarus report.

European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee has passed MEP Justas Paleckis' reports on the relations with Belarus. The initial version of the document contained paragraphs that called for lifting the visa sanctions against Belarus officials and noticed improvements in the situation with human rights. This paragraph has now changed completely.

"There are so many amendments that document will have around ten pages instead of two and a half. This is the result of our team work. 26 MEPs introduced 292 changes and corrections. Myself, I proposed 50 amendments," report author Justas Paleckis told Euroradio.

The report is to be released in several days, but Euroradio has already learned what other changes were made in the document.

Justas Paleckis: "The document has stressed once again that all opportunities for relations between people should be opened."

This means contacts at various levels - mutual trips by people of various trades, better conditions for relations between the youths, increased scholarships to study in EU universities.

The report also proposes to eliminate artificial barriers which cause huge queues at border-crossing posts and to liquidate visa problems. As the first step, it is proposed to reduce visa costs and to introduce visa-free regime in the future.

Justas Paleckis: "This is the first time when a voice from the EU proposes to remove visas."

The report proposes to involve government officials that were not engaged in repressions in relations with EU. This paragraph drew most of controversy but was eventuall passed anyway.

This is the first time this type of report contains a lot of statistics and returns of public opinion polls which explain why certain measures are proposed. Some 30 compromise proposals were drafted together with the shadow rapporteur.

Justas Paleckis: "The shadow rapporteur was Jacek Protasiewicz, Vice Chairman of European Parliament and former head of delegations on relations with Belarus. He also knows Belarus very well and we have found common language with him."

MEP Marek Migalksi made sure that the names of political prisoners, officially recognized by the European Union, were included in the report. Negotiations in this issue were in progress till the very last minute before the start of the voting.

"I am glad that I managed to include the names of political prisoners in this resolution. This is of paramaunt importance for their families. Information about a political prisoner mentioned in a European Union's body will definitely reach the prison chiefs. The fact that the names of political prisoner are mentioned from time to time in European Parliament's report makes them relative safe," said Mr Marek Migalski.

Another important issue was to oblige the authorities in Belarus to abolish criminal responsibility for receiving foreign grants by NGOs and keeping their money at foreign bank accounts. This amendment was also included into the report.

The report also calls to support organizations that work in the field of democracy and human rights not only inside but outside Belarus, because Belarusian authorities reject registration applications from such organizations all the time.

Justas Paleckis: "I was encouraged to write this report by the opinion expressed by one of key European politicians who said that Belarus had already been lost for Europe. When I put forward my idea to make a resolution on Belarus not as a reaction to some developments but as a strategy I thought it was mission impossible. I had doubts that my colleague would support me on the main issue: the dialogue on condition of the release of political prisoners."

In September when European Parlianent will have passed the report, it will become an official document. It will be possible then to demand that the executive branch of power in the European Union implement this resolution.