On Tuesday, 20 October, the European Parliament discussed a report on relations with Belarus. EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell noted that threats to demonstrators to use weapons indicate that the authorities are falling into despair.
“Unfortunately, the situation on the ground in Belarus has not improved. It has been and it continues to be a brutal crackdown against citizens, journalists and against members of the Coordination Council.
The Interior Ministry recently authorised to use lethal force and the increasing levels of violence against protestors are extremely worrying. They are sending extremely worrying signs, but also signs of desperation on the side of authorities,” Borrell said.
We continue to support Belarusians’ rights and reject falsified Presidential election results.
EU ready to support meaningful democratic transition.
Working on more sanctions, supporting civil society & preparing broad economic package for new democratic #Belarus.@Europarl_EN pic.twitter.com/jMt7Opeqio
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) October 20, 2020
At the same time, he believes that “the people’s patience is running out” referring to the planned People’s Ultimatum on 25 October announced by former presidential candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya.
Recipe for EU relations with Belarus
The author of the report, Lithuanian MEP from the Renew Europe political group Petras Auštrevičius reminded that the protests in Belarus have been going on for more than 70 days.
— Petras Austrevicius (@petras_petras) October 19, 2020
“Belarusians are subjected to illegal arrests, humiliation, attacks, they are injured. This is done by security forces, which should protect them… All this cruelty is committed because of one person – Alexander Lukashenko, who puts his interests above the future of the Belarusian people and the independence of Belarus,” said Auštrevičius. According to the politician, the recipe for the EU in relation to Belarus is simple: solidarity, support and sanctions.
Anna Fotyga, a Polish representative of the European Conservatives and Reformists Party, considers this approach to be correct. “For more than 70 days, there have been decisive protests of Belarusians against the usurper president, who uses a nation’s power against the civilian population,” she said and called on expansion of sanctions, as well as increase support for the people of Belarus.
The Croatian Social Democrat Tonino Picula also supported the idea of adding new names to the sanctions list. However, in other cases, his party takes a rather reserved position on imposing sanctions. He also stressed that the EU should provide assistance to victims of repression in Belarus.
What the European Parliament can do for Belarus?
“We have been holding debates for the fourth time [on Belarus – BelarusFeed note]. While we are debating, those who have the courage to speak out against injustice and violence are kidnapped, detained, thrown into jail, beaten, tortured and raped… Enough debate, let’s take action,” called on German MEP Viola von Cramon from the Green Party.
Viola von Cramon, in particular, suggested to add all those following criminal orders of Lukashenko to the sanctions list, as well as provide Schengen visas and the opportunity to work in the EU to people persecuted in Belarus.
“All violent regimes come to an end at some point. Lukashenko’s dictatorship is no exception. We must prepare for a peaceful transfer of power and right now promise financial assistance to the democratic government after Lukashenko leaves,” von Cramon said.
The European Parliament has no direct influence on the development of the EU’s foreign policy. However, the Lithuanian MEP from the European People’s Party Andrius Kubilius suggested the establishment of a mission of former presidents and prime ministers.
The European Parliament had such a mission in 2012 to monitor politically motivated criminal cases in Ukraine. Besides, he suggested to create a special center for the “international investigation of OMON [riot police] crimes.” Its task would be to register violations and provide legal assistance to victims.
Borrell: No answer
Almost all MEPs expressed support for the report. Only Thierry Mariani, a representative of the right-wing populist Identity and Democracy Party, criticised it. He is not satisfied with one paragraph of the report calling to recognise the results of the presidential election in Belarus on the basis of a sociological survey on the internet. “This is a very dangerous method for democracy,” he noted.
Indeed, the report cites a poll by the Golos platform, from which Tikhanovskaya received the majority of votes. However, it does not specify that Golos does not report that it has true results of the presidential election in Belarus on 9 August, it only claims that they were falsified.
Josep Borrell, in turn, stressed that the only way out of this situation is to hold new, honest and fair elections. This is the official position of the European Union, agreed upon by the foreign ministers a week earlier.
Borrell recalled that the EU did not recognise the results of the August elections, following which Alexander Lukashenko declared himself president of Belarus. Addressing Lukashenko in absentia, Borrell said: “You lack democratic legitimacy for doing so, we do not recognise you as the legitimate President of Belarus.“
“We continue to support the proposal for an OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] mission to facilitate this dialogue and we are promoting such an approach with all international actors. But I have to say that to my regret, the Belarusian authorities are not responsive at all. In French you would say ‘Ils sont aux abonnés absents’. No answer,” he added.