The European Parliament on September 12 approved a report by Justas Paleckis on the situation in Belarus, which contained recommendations on the European Union’s policy regarding Minsk.
The report proposes considering «unilaterally facilitating the issuing of visas and reducing their cost from €60 to an affordable level for Belarusian citizens» in order to «facilitate and intensify people-to-people interaction and help prevent further isolation of Belarusian citizens.»
Among other points, the report urges the Belarusian authorities to «respect human rights and work towards a democratic transition in order to end the country’s self-imposed isolation from the rest of Europe.»
The report suggests taking advantage of Lithuania’s EU presidency in the second half of 2013 and a European Partnership summit to be held in Vilnius in November «as a further important opportunity to improve relations with Belarus, as soon as all political prisoners have been released, in order to restart the political dialogue on, inter alia, democratic reforms, free and fair elections, respect for the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.»
Addressed to the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, the EU Council, the European Commission, the European External Action Service and the EU member states, the report suggests making the best use of the temporary and conditional suspension of the EU visa ban on Belarusian Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey «with a view to broadening the main and essential diplomatic communication channel with Belarus.»
The report also encourages dialogue with the Belarusian officials «who were not personally involved in repression, in order to enhance EU-Belarus cooperation; contribute to their interaction with Belarusian civil society, with a view, ultimately, to facilitate reforms.»
According to the report, the Belarusian authorities should lift all obstacles and restrictions to the exercise of freedoms of association, expression, movement, peaceful assembly and thought for pro-democracy opposition groups and civil society organizations, not to execute those sentenced to death in 2013 and impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its complete abolition.
The initial version of the report, written by Mr. Paleckis following his May 18–21 visit to Minsk, which noted improvements in the human rights situation in Belarus in 2012 and recommended suspending entry bans against Belarusian officials, was met with indignation from Belarusian opposition activists and human rights defenders, while the Belarusian foreign ministry expressed hope that the report would help Belarus and the European Union step up their dialogue.
More than 300 amendments and suggestions were submitted with regard to the report before the deadline, June 12.