Despite the international community’s calls for restraint, the actions applied by the authorities, including “preventive arrests before and a large number of arrests and detentions of peaceful protesters on 25 March”, were “indiscriminate and inappropriate”, the European Union delegation stressed during the meeting of the European Union-Belarus Coordination Group in Minsk on 3-4 April.
According to the delegation, headed by Thomas Mayr-Harting, Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia of the European External Action Service, the authorities limited the freedom of expression and assembly in contradiction with “Belarus’ stated policy of democratisation and its international commitments”.
Another topic raised during the discussion was the construction of the Belarusian nuclear power plant. “The European Union side stressed the need for full transparency and cooperation on nuclear safety issues,” the official press release reads.
The European delegation included representatives of the European External Action Service and the Directorates-General of the European Commission responsible for the European Neighborhood Policy, trade, energy as well as home affairs.
The Belarusian side was led by Mr Oleg Kravchenko, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and included representatives of other relevant ministries. The EU delegation was received by Foreign Minister Vladimir Makei as well as by Mr Maxim Ryzhenkov, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration.
Experts and non-governmental organisations from Belarus also took part in the talks.
The previous meetings of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group took place in April and November 2016.
Like in November, a specific session was dedicated to human rights and political freedoms. This time, pro-governmental political scientists were present among the Belarusian experts.
Besides human rights, the talks touched upon mobility, people to people contacts, trade, energy, customs, transport, environment, research, education, sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards, agriculture and social security.
Both sides exchanged views on developments in the region.
The European Union-Belarus Coordination Group is a new format of the dialogue between Minsk and Brussels. It was launched a year ago as part of the process of normalization of the Belarusian-European relations.
Meetings of the group are held every six months. This year, the meeting is held against the backdrop of the EU’s discontent over the violent supression of protests on 25 March in Minsk and a wave of administrative arrests before and after the protests.