EU renews Belarus sanctions (updated)

The sanctions will be effective through till October 31, 2013. The Council of the EU has taken this decision because in Belarus there are violations of human rights, political prisoners still exist and those who have been released are not rehabilitated.

The document of the Council of the EU regarding the situation in Belarus consists of 9 points. It is stated there that the EU is concerned about human rights violations in Belarus, absence of democracy and the fact that the parliamentary election took place in the atmosphere of repressions and did not correspond with the OSCE suggestions and the international standards. The Council of the EU has appealed for "immediate release and rehabilitation of remaining political prisoners".

The Council also has once again urged the Belarusian authorities to stop harassment of the civil society, political opposition and the independent media.

The Council has adopted the following conclusions:

1. "Recalling the Council conclusions of 31 January 2011, 20 June 2011 and 23 March 2012, the
Council notes the importance which it attaches to this country which neighbours the EU and to
the citizens of that country, and remains gravely concerned about the lack of respect for human
rights, democracy and rule of law in Belarus.

2. Referring to the Statement by High Representative Catherine Ashton and Commissioner
Štefan Füle, the Council regrets that the Parliamentary elections of 23 September 2012, which
took place against an overall background of repression, represented another missed
opportunity for Belarus to hold elections in line with OSCE and international standards. It
calls on the Belarusian authorities to address the recommendations made by the
OSCE/ODIHR, to cooperate fully to that end with the OSCE/ODIHR, and to permit the return
of an OSCE Office to Belarus.

3. The Council reiterates its calls for the immediate release and rehabilitation of all remaining
political prisoners. It notes the release of Syarhei Kavalenka as a positive signal, but regrets
that this was conditional on request for a Presidential pardon. The Council also remains deeply
concerned about decisions concerning additional prison sentences and continued reports of
mistreatment of political prisoners.

4. The Council again calls upon the Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment of civil society,
the political opposition and the independent media. The Council urges the Belarusian
authorities to comply with the Human Rights Council Resolution 20/13, including to
implement all recommendations contained in the report of the UN High Commissioner for
Human Rights of April 2012 and to cooperate fully with the new UN Special Rapporteur on

5. As not all political prisoners have been released and no released prisoner has been
rehabilitated, and against the background of the lack of improvement as regards the respect for
human rights, the rule of law and democratic principles, the Council decided to prolong the
existing restrictive measures until 31 October 2013. In this context, the Council recalls its
Conclusions of 23 March 2012 and reiterates that its policy on restrictive measures remains
open and under constant review.

6. In the spirit of EU solidarity, the Council again calls on Belarus to respect fully internationally
recognised diplomatic privileges and immunities of EU Member States' diplomatic
representations and their personnel in Belarus, including to allow them to perform fully their

7. The Council reiterates its firm commitment to strengthening the EU's engagement with the
Belarusian people and civil society. The Council expresses its continued full support for and
the intention to further elaborate the “European Dialogue on Modernisation”. It notes that the
European Dialogue has stimulated a substantial debate among representatives of Belarusian
society with a view to proposing concrete ideas on the reform needs and encourages the
authorities of Belarus to engage in the discussions.

8. The Council reiterates the EU's readiness to launch negotiations for visa facilitation and
readmission agreements which would enhance people-to-people contacts to the benefit of the
Belarusian population at large, and regrets the absence of response from the Belarusian
authorities to Commission's invitation in June 2011 to start negotiations. Meanwhile, the
Council welcomes that EU Member States continue to make optimal use of the existing
flexibilities offered by the Visa Code, in particular the possibilities to waive and reduce visa
fees for certain categories of Belarusian citizens or in individual cases and would welcome the
possibilities to explore ways to further reduce visa fees for Belarusian citizens.

9. The Council reiterates its commitment to the policy of critical engagement, including through
dialogue and participation in the Eastern Partnership, and recalls that the development of
bilateral relations under the Eastern Partnership is conditional on progress towards respect by
Belarus for the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The Council
reiterates the EU’s willingness to assist Belarus to meet its obligations in this regard."