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Statement by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on the lifting of EU sanctions on Belarus

27.02.2016  |  Politics   |  Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum,  
Statement by the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on the lifting of EU sanctions on Belarus

The EaP CSF Steering Committee calls on the Belarusan authorities to initiate talks with the Belarusan National Platform of the EaP CSF on the establishment of a Belarusan Council of National Dialogue

Statement

by the Steering Committee
of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

on the lifting of EU sanctions on a number of Belarusan officials

23 February 2016

The Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum (EaP CSF) calls on the Belarusan authorities to initiate talks with representatives of the Belarusan National Platform of the EaP CSF (BNP) on the establishment of a Belarusan Council of National Dialogue.

The EaP CSF Steering Committee notes the current improvement in relations between the Republic of Belarus and the European Union signified by the lifting of EU sanctions and release of political prisoners in Belarus. These moves open the way, under the right conditions, to placing Belarusan society onto the path of stable development.

The EaP CSF Steering Committee recognises the view of the Belarusan National Platform of the EaP CSF that this is only possible if independent actors of Belarusan society are involved in “the discussion on social and political issues, challenges and promising solutions.” The BNP’s opinion is that as of now the Belarusan authorities remain unwilling to “reach an acceptable understanding between the authorities and independent actors in Belarusan society.”

At the same time, the BNP has said that it is ready to “make a constructive contribution to improving EU-Belarus relations and to deploy its expertise and play a monitoring role if the real conditions are created in Belarus for an inclusive and equitable socio-political dialogue, designed to consolidate society and to accelerate development as a part of European civilization.”

In this event, the EaP CSF Steering Committee calls on the Belarusan authorities to initiate talks with representatives of the BNP on the establishment of a Belarusan Council of National Dialogue which would bring the authorities together with independent actors of Belarusan society, such as professional and business communities, religious organisations, the national cultural elite and a wide range of independent civil society organisations to discuss ways of accelerating the country’s development.

Such a Council would allow the authorities to develop a plan of reforms ahead of parliamentary elections in the autumn of 2016 working together with independent actors on the basis of consensus and in a spirit of compromise. It would also provide a tangible proof of the political will of both sides to bring about meaningful change and to improve relations between the Republic of Belarus and the EU.

The establishment of such a Council should also be accompanied by the Abolition of Article 193-1 of the Criminal Code which establishes criminal responsibility for activity on behalf of unregistered organisations, the abolition of restrictions on peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression and the simplification of registration of non profit organisations, as well as registration of foreign donations to such organisations.

Among the first tasks of the Council, it is vital to support the initiative and proactive role of civil society organisations in the examination of issues such as the accession of Belarus to the Higher Education Area, the signing by the authorities of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Charter of Local Self-Government and other subjects raised in the BNP position on opportunites of EU-Belarus cooperation adopted on 29 November 2015.

Members of the Steering Committee of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

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