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EU: Opposition Arrests In Belarus Condemned

  • Ahto Lobjakas --> Benita Ferrero-Waldner (file photo) (official site) BRUSSELS, July 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner has said in a statement that she is "dismayed" at the arrests and detention of several members of the democratic opposition in Belarus in the past few days.

The statement, issued on July 26, names Pavel Sevyarynets and Alyaksey Shein as two of the arrested activists.

Today, the European Commission's external relations spokeswoman, Christiane Hohmann, said in Brussels that the arrests brazenly defy an EU offer for Belarus to join its European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).

"These politically motivated arrests are in contradiction to the EU's offer to the Belarusians to engage in a full partnership" in the program, Hohmann said.

Generous Neighbors

Membership in the ENP could net Belarus tens, or possibly hundreds, of millions of euros in aid over the current EU multiannual budget. That budget earmarks 12 billion euros for the current 17 EU neighborhood countries till 2013.

"These politically motivated arrests are in contradiction to the EU's offer to the Belarusians to engage in a full partnership in the European Neighborhood Policy."

However, the EU's offer is conditioned on democratic reforms and respect for human rights in Belarus.

Hohmann says the arrests will not affect the commission's drive to set up a representative office in Minsk.

Hohmann explained the EU believes in the intrinsic value of dialogue even with repressive regimes like that of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus.

"In our view, it should not affect the ongoing talks about establishing a full-fledged EU delegation in Minsk which started in the spring," Hohmann said. "[The talks] are not finalized yet, they will continue after summer -- because in our view it's very important to be present on the ground, not only to have firsthand information, but also to be there as a permanent partner in dialogue with the Belarusian authorities."

Technical Delays

An EU official told RFE/RL the delay in setting up an office in Minsk is due to technical factors. The EU is not party to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, as it is not a country, and therefore must undergo a more cumbersome procedure of securing full agreement on all details with the host nation.

The official said that the EU had first contacted Belarus about the office two years ago. Minsk eventually agreed to the request in April 2007.

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