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European Parliament Set To Condemn Belarus Crackdown

  • Rikard Jozwiak

Belarus's vote prompted big protest rallies in central Minsk.

Belarus's vote prompted big protest rallies in central Minsk.

BRUSSELS -- The main political groupings in the European Parliament have put together a joint draft resolution condemning the crackdown following Belarus's presidential election last month.

The draft is a compromise text agreed in Strasbourg by the groups -- of liberals, socialists, and center-right and conservative MEPs -- that earlier drew up separate but similar drafts.

The joint text is likely to pass when put to a vote in the parliament on January 20.

The draft condemns the crackdown on opposition candidates and protesters when police used force to break up demonstrations following the December 19 vote that returned President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to power.

It also calls for a free and fair repeat of the election, which was criticized as flawed by international observers and Western governments.

The text also calls for a resumption of a visa ban on top Belarusian officials, as well as expanding it to people directly involved in the latest repressions. The left-wing Confederal Group of the European United Left (GUE) had first expressed hesitation about reimposing the visa ban but later added its backing to the resolution.

Some Economic Sanctions Included

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the center-right European People’s Party (EPP) managed to include various forms of economic repercussions for Lukashenka’s regime in the text. The draft calls for targeted sanctions on Belarusian government-owned companies and a freeze of all macro financial aid provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as lending operations by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

"It is a strong resolution and we are serious and concerned," said Kristiina Ojuland, an Estonian member of parliament with the ALDE group who was involved in drafting the joint text. "Enough is enough and we want to change the regime."

The draft also contains a call for reopening the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) office in Minsk that was shut down by Belarusian authorities.

A line about more support for civil society in the country is also included, as is support for more scholarships to the European Humanities University (EHU), based in Vilnius, for Belarusian students who were suspended from the universities after taking part in the protests.

The center-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) will, however, ask for a split vote on two items in the draft resolution in the plenary vote on January 20.

The group objects to a line that says Belarus should not host the World Ice Hockey Championships in 2014 if it still holds political prisoners. It is also unhappy about a passage that “regrets" Russia's move to recognize the elections.

The Socialist group has indicated they will support the resolution as a whole.

This week's debate and vote come after the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee last week called for a revision of Brussels' policy toward Minsk.

The resolution by the European Parliament -- if adopted as expected -- will be largely symbolic. But it is likely to spur other EU institutions to change their relationship with the regime in Minsk, starting with EU foreign ministers, who are expected to decide on visa sanctions on January 31.

There are 34 Belarusian officials on the current visa-sanctions list, which the EU imposed following a disputed election in 2006. The ban was suspended in 2008 as Brussels tried to convince Lukashenka that democratic reform would bring benefits to his country.
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    Rikard Jozwiak

    Rikard Jozwiak covers the European Union and NATO for RFE/RL from his base in Brussels.​ Write to him at rikard.jozwiak@gmail.com

     

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