You can blame foreign puppeteers as much as you like, get carried away with conspiracy theories, prosecute crime victims and switch attention from cause to effect – this does not change reality. Only an open and fair political process will ensure a sustainable solution to the current crisis in Belarus. Head of the EU Delegation to Belarus Dirk Schuebel stated this in an interview to BelaPAN news agency.
In an interview, Dirk Schuebel also spoke about sanctions, numerous attempts to get into pre-trial detention facilities where political prisoners are held, about EU assistance to Belarus, and explained why the EU cannot declare the OMON [riot police] and GUBOPiK [the Main Directorate for combating organized crime] terrorist organizations. Here are some excerpts from the interview.
“The European Union does not take restrictive measures thoughtlessly – they are used purposefully to suppress violations of human rights, to protect democracy and the rule of lawю By adopting three packages of sanctions in 2020 [which are now imposed on 88 individuals and seven legal entities] the EU states have demonstrated that the attack of the Belarusian authorities on civil society and citizens whose only demand is to respect their fundamental rights will not go unpunished.
We reject the claims of the state media in Belarus that it is precisely the carefully thought-out restrictive measures of the EU that threaten the economic well-being of Belarusian citizens. Over the past week, we have received numerous reports that the administrations of state enterprises and state institutions in Belarus forced their employees to sign letters stating otherwise.
All I can say is that coercion of employees with threats of dismissal and other violations of their rights is exactly the behaviour that EU sanctions are intended to suppress. I underline that the EU countries took decisions on the adoption of new packages of sanctions unanimously. We impose sanctions on those who are responsible for the brutal repression of the Belarusian people and the rigging of elections, as well as against some entities that clearly support the Lukashenko regime and benefit from it.
Let me also emphasize that sanctions are primarily a preventive tool for the EU and an incentive to change the behaviour of those to whom they apply. They also cannot be viewed separately from other EU instruments. The sanctions are part of a holistic and comprehensive approach towards Belarus established by the EU Council Conclusions of 12 October 2020.”
Dirk Schuebel also noted that the EU countries can adopt the fourth package of sanctions if the situation in Belarus does not improve.
“As for those against whom sanctions may be imposed, we have no right to comment on the discussions that are underway in the Council of the European Union. As soon as a decision on new sanctions is made, the Council will publish it. At the same time, the Council can lift restrictive measures when significant progress has been made in Belarus in the area of human and civil rights.”
On assistance to Belarus
“Dirk Schuebel noted that from 2016 to 2020, the bilateral assistance of the EU to Belarus amounted to about 30 million euros per year. The amount of funding in 2021 is still under discussion. According to the Council Conclusions on Belarus on 12 October, the EU has revised aid to Belarus to ensure that cooperation will benefitBelarusian people and will not involve the transfer of funds to state authorities.
We had to suspend about half of our bilateral cooperation programs. Projects that directly benefit citizens and are carried out in collaboration with non-governmental, local and regional partners in the areas of youth, environment, small and medium-sized businesses, local development, mobility, civil society and independent media will continue. The new assistance program “EU4Belarus: Solidarity with the People of Belarus” will be financed in the amount of 24 million euros.
It aims to support civil society, independent media, youth, small and medium-sized businesses, and to improve health capacities. The program was adopted on 11 December 2020, and we will soon be implemented. Part of this program, which will be implemented by international organizations, is designed to help Belarusian society cope with emergencies arising in connection with the still on-going COVID-19 pandemic.”
On OMON and GUBOPiK
“As for declaring [GUBOPiK and OMON] organisations terrorist, the current EU instruments do not allow this at the level of the European Union. As structures representing the state, they do not meet the definition of a terrorist organization, which should be included in the so-called European List of Terrorists (CP931 counter-terrorism sanctions regime ).
Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize that last year the European Union imposed sanctions on the heads of OMON units, as well as officers and commanders of other structures (SOBR, police, Alpha Unit, Interior Ministry troops) who were involved in the brutal repression of the protesters. As I said, we strongly condemn violence and support all initiatives to bring perpetrators to justice.”
On access to pre-trial detention facilities
“True, we have officially and unofficially requested access to places of detention and penitentiary institutions amid reports of inhuman or inappropriate treatment of prisoners and detainees. There was no positive response, but we will continue to do our best to release hundreds of Belarusians imprisoned for political reasons and those whose rights to humane treatment and fair trial are violated.”