EU makes re-engagement with Belarus conditional on parliamentary elections

The European Union will evaluate the situation in Belarus in the light of the nation’s September 28 parliamentary elections and of the progress made in embracing the values of democracy and human rights, said EU foreign ministers in conclusions on Belarus adopted at an External Relations Council meeting in Brussels on September 15.

The ministers noted that the EU “is prepared to begin to review the restrictive measures against Belarusian leaders, and to take positive and concrete measures that may lead to a gradual re-engagement with Belarus, including via a meeting between the European Union troika and the Belarusian Minister for Foreign Affairs.”

The ministers pointed out that the forthcoming elections represent an opportunity for Belarus to demonstrate its respect for democratic values. They expressed hope that the elections would be pluralist and emphasized the importance of guaranteeing the OSCE observers “effective access to all stages of the electoral process, including the counting of votes. The ministers also stressed the importance of “guaranteeing the rights of the opposition, as regards both the rights to stand and access to electoral monitoring commissions and the media.”

The ministers expressed satisfaction with the release of Alyaksandr Kazulin, Syarhey Parsyukevich and Andrei Kim. “Their release means that no further international recognized political prisoners are currently incarcerated in Belarus,” the conclusions say.

The ministers noted that their release was a precondition for the European Union to review the restrictive measures against Belarus’ officials and to restore relations with Minsk. Nevertheless, the conclusions read, the European Union remains concerned “at other important aspects of the human rights situation in Belarus.”