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EU To Quadruple Aid To Belarusian Civil Society

EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele

The European Commission is to quadruple its aid to Belarus in order to support human rights and democracy there, according to European Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele.

He was speaking today at a donors' conference in Poland's capital, Warsaw.

The conference, in which some 40 countries participated, was aimed at raising funds for the Belarusian opposition in the wake of a crackdown on antigovernment protests following President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's disputed reelection in December.

Fuele said European aid will increase to 15.6 million euros from the current 4 million euros.

Poland has taken a lead role in European efforts to promote democracy in Belarus.

The European Union and the United States this week announced a fresh round of financial and travel sanctions against the Belarusian government in response to the crackdown, in which more than 600 people were arrested, including seven of nine presidential candidates running against Lukashenka.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Krzysztof Stanowski said today’s donor conference was being held as a "gesture of solidarity" with Belarusians living under Lukashenka's regime.

The aim of the conference is to raise financial and other forms of assistance for pro-democracy groups, free media outlets, and Belarusian students who have been expelled for their opposition activities.

compiled from agency reports