Minsk 19 June 2015. I have led the 8 MEPs strong European Parliament standing delegation on its first visit to Minsk since 2002. The structured and intensive programme has allowed us to have several exchanges of views and to receive information on the functioning of the Institutions in Belarus and to discuss the perspectives offered by the Eastern Partnership, in the aftermath of the Riga Summit, with a particular view to possible new benefits for the people of Belarus.
The Delegation has met with Belarusian authorities on 18 June and with Belarusian representatives of the main opposition parties and civil society, as well as with representatives of the association of journalists and relatives of political prisoners on 19 June.
Meetings with Belarusian authorities have given the EP Delegation the opportunity to better understand the elements on which future sectoral cooperation with Belarus could be built, but also to express its concerns regarding the human rights and fundamental freedoms situation in the country, the registration procedure for political parties, associations and presidential candidates which remains particularly cumbersome, but also the lack of an effective rule of law and the shortcomings observed during previous elections. Our hope is that Belarus will soon approve a moratorium on the death penalty and proceed with the liberation of all remaining political prisoners.
On the other hand there are important sectors in which Belarus is already progressing well: higher education (Bologna process), vocational training, the digital market, the energy sector, food safety and culture, to mention just a few. I am looking forward to report back to the EP relevant bodies and to continue to contribute, through our Delegation, to the EU policy of "critical engagement" towards Belarus.
Participating MEPs: Mr Bogdan ZDROJEWSKI, Chairman (EPP, Poland), Mr Andrejs MAMIKINS, 1st Vice-Chair (S&D, Latvia),Mr Valdemar TOMASEVSKI, 2nd Vice-Chair (ECR, Lithuania), Mr Marek JUREK (ECR, Poland), Ms Sandra KALNIETE (EPP, Latvia), Ms Agnieszka KOZLOWSKA-RAJEWICZ (EPP, Poland), Mr Nils TORVALDS (ALDE, Finland) Observer: Ms Heidi HAUTALA (Greens/EFA, Finland).