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EU Urges Belarus To Join Neighborhood Policy

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero (file photo) (epa) BRUSSELS, November 21, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union today repeated its long-standing call for Belarus to join the EU Neighborhood Policy.

The EU's External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in Brussels a summary of the benefits offered was handed over to the Belarusian government in Minsk on the morning of November 21.

The offer, she said, is conditional on democratic reforms in the country.

"We are sending a message today to the people of Belarus. That's the important thing -- we're sending a message to the people of Belarus explaining what we could offer to Belarus if the conditions in the country changed," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Apart from the government, the EU offer will be distributed to nongovernmental organizations and media outlets in the country.

Neighbor Benefits

The offer lists in a concise format the benefits of the ENP, currently enjoyed by Ukraine and Moldova among others -- development aid, easier travel to EU countries, and institution-building assistance.

The conditions listed in the offer say that to join the ENP, Belarus must hold free and fair elections, respect freedom of expression and civil society rights, and release political prisoners. It must also allow for an independent judiciary, respect the rights and freedoms of national minorities, respect the rights of entrepreneurs, and abolish the death penalty.

Ukraine Example

Ferrero-Waldner repeatedly praised the example set by Ukraine, but distanced the EU from suggestions it might actively support attempts to overthrow Lukashenka's regime.

"We have never backed one party or one regime only. We always feel if the population of the country is mature to choose then it will certainly choose democracy, the rule of law and human rights, as we have seen in Ukraine," Ferrero-Waldner said.

Officials say the EU's aid budget for the eastern neighborhood countries, to be unveiled in Brussels on November 29, will run to 12 billion euros ($15.4 billion) between 2007-2013.

Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner was unable to say on November 21 what share of the money could be allocated to Belarus should it meet the EU's conditions.

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

RFE/RL Belarus, Ukraine, And Moldova Report

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