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Council and Commission Statements - Result of the Referendum and Elections in Belarus

Speech by Dr.Laima Andrikiene, EPP-ED (Lithuania)

Plenary session of the European Parliament
Strasbourg, October 27, 2004

Thank you, Mr.President.

On October 19 the European Commission has endorsed the conclusions of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that the October 17 "elections in Belarus fell well short of democratic standards, short from being free and fair" and I fully support Commission's conclusions. In addition to this it has been said that "Belarus can forget about the neighbourhood policy now", and instead, "sanctions are in the air", as the "EU has a history of being willing to respond with sanctions to infractions against democracy and human rights".

The opposite evaluation has been announced a week later by the Russian Parliament, who in its statement declared that "the elections and referendum in Belarus has been fair, free, democratic and legitimate". Only 8 MPs voted against while 416 members of the Duma were in favour. Our conclusion should be clear: the Russian Parliament has distanced itself from all democratic parliaments in the world and also proved that the last dictator in Europe has full backing of the Russian Duma controlled by political forces, closely linked to President Putin.

Almost at the same time another document - the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 - has been signed by the American President Bush, which is a clear commitment "to support those within Belarus who are working toward democracy: students, trade unionists, civic and religious leaders, journalists and all citizens of Belarus claiming freedom for their nation". This document foresees 45 million USD to be used to strengthen democracy in Belarus.

In comparison to this, what we, the EU and the European Parliament in particular, could and should do? One of the Commission's officials in his correspondence with me explained that in 2005 Belarus should normally be eligible for the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights campaign no. 3 that will deal with support to freedom of expression and promotion of independent media. The eligibility of Belarus in this context should be limited to macro-projects, whose size can vary between EUR 300,000 and 1,500,000. The eligibility of Belarus for campaign no. 3 macro-projects is subject to the adoption of the EIDHR 2005-2006 programming document that has not yet been approved. The organisations that wish to obtain funding within this framework will have the possibility to participate in the specific call for proposals concerning the above-mentioned topic. The timetable for the call for proposals has not yet been fixed. My position is that even the EIDHR 2005-2006 programming document is to be approved and implemented, I do not think this support for democracy and human rights in Belarus is going to be sufficient effective.

Mr.President,

A month ago here in Strasbourg I spoke about the project "International Broadcasting to Belarus: Radio for Good Neighbourhood", which aims to renew the cross-border broadcasting to Belarus in one radio channel, using the creative resources of Radio Racyja from Belarus and the high power broadcasting licence of Radio Baltic Waves from Vilnius, Lithuania. The need for such broadcasting is justified by the media situation in Belarus, where several independent newspapers and radio stations has been silenced, any critical commentaries and discussions are forbidden. Project sites are: Minsk (Belarus), Vilnius and Kaunas (Lithuania); languages to be used - Byelorussian and Russian. The budgetary allocations I have in mind are 6 million EURO for 2005 plus half a million EURO for the year 2006. The overall cost of the project to be implemented during 6 years - more than 8 million EURO. Your support, Commissioner Verheugen, as well as support of my colleagues from the European Parliament especially of the Human Rights Subcommittee is necessary.

Another project which has to be discussed and could be implemented is about Byelorussian students to continue their studies in Lithuania. Byelorussian Humanities University has been closed by the Byelorussian authorities, students and professors of this university cannot continue their research, studies, etc. Three Lithuanian universities - Vilnius University, Law University of Lithuania and Vytautas Magnus University are in a position to accept Byelorussian students and to provide them with an opportunity to continue their studies in Lithuania. What is necessary - this is a financial support possibly from the EU to implement this idea, which should contribute to the most important goal - strengthening of democracy and civic society in Belarus.

Thank you.