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2008-04-17
Final declaration of the EPP-ED Hearing "Chernobyl Today"

EPP-ED HEARING

CHERNOBYL TODAY

European Parliament

Brussels

April 17, 2008

FINAL DECLARATION

We, participants of the Hearing,

- having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to all relevant international human rights instruments,

- having regard to the United Nations Charter,

- having regard to all United Nations human rights conventions and the optional protocols thereto,

- having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,

- having regard to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

- having regard to the European Parliament resolution of 14 February 2006 on human rights and democracy clause in the European Union agreements,

- having regard to the European Parliament resolutions on human rights situation in Belarus, in particular to its resolution on Belarus of 21 February 2008,

- having regard to the European Commission's Non Paper "What the EU could bring to Belarus" of 21 November 2006, where the EU declared its readiness to renew its relationship with Belarus and its people within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP),

- having regard to the European Union Annual Reports on Human Rights,

- having regard to the WHO report „Health Effects of the Chernobyl Accident and Special health Care Programmes",

- having regard to the recommendations of the Chernobyl Forum and UN resolutions on Chernobyl and its legacy,

A. whereas the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 was the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry, and it had significant environmental, public health and socio-economic impacts,

B. whereas the purposes and responsibilities for the accident and consequences were never transparently investigated and made public,

C. whereas the accident caused a huge release of radionuclides over large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, and neighbouring countries - EU Member States, i.e. Lithuania, Poland, Latvia, Scandinavian countries, and huge territories of Europe were contaminated, therefore the consequences of Chernobyl remain to be the continuous European problem,

D. whereas the highest radiation doses were received by emergency workers, and in time more than 600,000 people were registered as emergency and recovery workers (liquidators),

E. whereas 1.4 million people in Belarus still live in the contaminated areas, and 260,000 of them are children; there are 120,000 persons in Belarus, who were liquidating the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe, and 12,000 of them are handicapped; and whereas in 2006 liquidators were refused social guarantees, assistance and special medical treatment by A.Lukashenko regime, and their situation became even worse,

F. whereas the general public of the region, including several EU Member States, has been exposed during the past twenty two years after the accident both from external sources (Cesium-137 on soil, etc.) and via intake of radionuclides (mainly, Cesium-137) with foods, water and air; whereas acute radiation syndrome (ARS), deaths from cancer, thyroid cancer, increased risk of cardiovascular diseases in population groups exposed to higher doses of radiation - that is the legacy of Chernobyl people of Belarus and some present EU Member States are facing today,

G. whereas structural parts of the Shelter which has been built in 1986 to contain the damaged reactor have corroded during past 22 years, which could potentially lead to the collapse of the Shelter and thus to the release of radioactive dust into the environment,

H. whereas European Union since the Chernobyl catastrophe has played an active role in elimination of its consequences in contaminated regions as well as in strengthening nuclear safety situation and preventing environment and population from possible nuclear catastrophes in the future,

I. whereas people living in the areas affected by the Chernobyl accident are uncertain about the impact of radiation on their health and surroundings, and do not know how to lead a healthy life in the region,

1. Deeply regret that the Soviet government initially delayed any public announcement that the accident had occurred and condemn the behaviour of the Soviet leadership as crime not only against population of the then USSR, today's citizens of the EU, but also against all humanity;

2. Call on the European Community to continue its efforts and financial support for economic, social and environmental rehabilitation of the regions contaminated by Chernobyl taking into account that the nuclear catastrophe has long-term consequences over large areas in numerous states, Belarus among them;

3. Call on the European Community to draw special attention to the situation of liquidators of the Chernobyl catastrophe in Belarus, thus contributing to the democratization of Belarus and promotion of human rights in the country;

4. Stress that independent channels for distributing financial support for rehabilitation of contaminated regions in Belarus must be developed and secured in order to avoid the control and the misuse of this financial support by the authoritarian A.Lukashenko regime; at the same time urge the European Commission to reinforce the necessary safeguards ensuring the transparency and efficiency of the existing EU projects and financial support aimed for Belarus;

5. Call on the government of Belarus to assure the social guarantees, medical assistance and treatment to all those affected by the Chernobyl tragedy;

6. Stress that Chernobyl-affected populations need clear, comprehensive, and unambiguous information about the accident and radiation;

7. Stress the need for the EU to monitor and research the consequences of Chernobyl on the peoples health and environment of the EU Members States and neighbouring countries as well as its socio-economic impacts and welcome the proposal to establish International Scientific Research Centre "Ecology and Health" in Vilnius, Lithuania;

8. Underline that the authoritarian nature and the self-isolationist policy of the Belarusian regime create additional obstacles to effectively address the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, and regrettably do not allow for a closer cooperation with the European Union on wide range of issues of common concern, including that of Chernobyl, and do not yet permit a substantial increase of the EU financial support in this regard;

9. Urge the Belarusian authorities without any further delay to embark on democratic reforms and to positively respond to the European Union's readiness to renew its relationship with Belarus and its people within the framework of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), as soon as the Belarusian government demonstrates respect for democratic values and for the basic rights of the Belarusian people;

10. In this regard call on the government of Belarus to implement all conditions laid down in the Non Paper "What the EU could bring to Belarus", which include release of all political prisoners, abolition of the death penalty, assurance of free media, independence of the judiciary and respect for democratic values and for the basic rights of the Belarusian people; in this regard acknowledge the recent release of a number of political prisoners, but at the same time demand for the final and unconditional release of Mr Alexander Kazulin and the full stop to any further politically motivated arrests, intimidation and harassment used against peaceful demonstrators and representatives of the democratic opposition and civil society;

11. Welcome the agreement to establish the European Commission’s Delegation in Minsk and hope that it will help to facilitate the EU efforts to support the political, economic and social reform processes in Belarus and to help to improve quality of life of the Belarusian people, including those affected by the Chernobyl catastrophe;

12. Underline that the energy crisis between Belarus and Russia in January 2007 raised major concern in the European Union and highlighted Belarus’s critical role in ensuring the energy security of the EU; in this regard stresses that the EU should take note of the indications from the Belarusian government about its willingness to engage in an energy dialogue; at the same time urges the EU not compromise on its values and start energy dialogue with Belarus only under clear conditions and at the same time stressing;

13. Express reservation over the Belarusian government's plans to build a new nuclear plant and urge the Belarusian government to timely undertake an environmental impact assessment of this project bringing it in line with the international environmental standards, aiming to ensure safety and to avoid any similar tragedy like Chernobyl in the future;

14. Stress that any political and economic decisions leading to self-isolation or isolation of Belarus will directly affect the wellbeing of common Belarusian people; also stress that economic sanctions against the Republic of Belarus as methods of solving problems caused by A.Lukashenko regime should not be seen as an acceptable solution, since they directly affect the common Belarusian people;

15. Ask the European Parliament to address issues mentioned above in its resolutions on human rights situation in Belarus as well as in its resolutions on health and environment protection as well as on the nuclear energy in the EU.