Thursday, April 29, 2010

Situation in Belarus: both the authorities and the opposition will participate in PACE’s debate

Both a representative of the opposition and a representative of the Belarusian authorities will take part in the urgent debate on the recent developpements in Belarus that the Assembly is to hold tomorrow morning. Alexander Yushkevich, Chairman of the Standing Committee on human rights, national relations and mass-media of the House of Representative of the National Assembly and Anatoly Lebedko, Co-Chairman of the National Committee of the United Democratic Forces (UDF), Chairman of the United Civic Party, will be invited to take the floor in the context of the debate. (PACE. 28/4/10)

Isolation versus engagement

In her report on the Situation in Belarus: Recent Developments, Mrs Sinikka Hurskainen says,

"In its relations with the Belarusian authorities, the Assembly has tried both the line of isolation and the line of dialogue. Neither has had any decisive impact in steering Belarus towards the path of democracy.

After a number of years in which a policy of isolation was applied, the Council of Europe relations with the Belarusian authorities became more dynamic in 2007, also thanks to the encouragement given by the Assembly, in particular by the former President René van der Linden and the former PACE Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, Mr Andrea Rigoni.

This new dynamic has resulted in:

-increased contacts between the Assembly and the Belarusian parliament;

-numerous high level contacts between the Committee of Ministers and the Belarusian authorities;

-the establishment of an Infopoint on the Council of Europe in Minsk, in the premises of the State University, on the basis of a one-year renewable agreement.

Belarus has also expressed an interest in becoming a party to some Council of Europe bodies or conventions, in particular the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (CETS No. 197). These requests are currently under examination.

Personally, I am convinced that nothing can be gained through a policy of isolation. The Assembly and the Council of Europe should pursue a strategy of engagement with the Belarusian authorities. However, the scope and extent of this engagement should depend on developments in Belarus.

In addition, it is unacceptable that Belarus refuses the imposition of ‘conditions’, in the context of a strategy of engagement. Conditionality is an intrinsic characteristic of the way in which the Council of Europe works. If the Belarusian authorities’ will to engage with the Council of Europe is genuine, they should accept the ‘rules of the game’, including conditionality.

Finally, in asking for the introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty as the only condition for restoration of special guest status, in my opinion, Resolution 1671 (2009) represented the lowest possible level of demands that can be made to the Belarusian authorities. The Assembly hoped to see concrete positive steps in response; the authorities replied with concrete steps backwards. In these circumstances, we cannot act as if it were business as usual."

Rapporteur Mrs Sinikka Hurskained concludes her report by outlining her opinion that:

"-the approach of dialogue and engagement should be pursued; the Council of Europe should not revert to a policy of isolation;

-there cannot be progress on dialogue without progress towards Council of Europe standards and a clear political commitment by the Belarusian authorities to embrace Council of Europe values, backed up by concrete actions;"

To read the whole report, `Situation in Belarus: Recent Developments`, log on

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