Digest of This Week's Belarus-Related Events in Warsaw
Official Minsk refused to take part in the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw this week. According to the special statement made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 30 September, the organizers of the Eastern Partnership Summit have applied an unprecedented discriminatory measures towards Belarus.
In addition to the Summit, this week Warsaw hosted a number of other Belarus-related events including the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (26 September-7 October 2011) and an international conference titled “The Eastern Partnership Conference: towards a European Community of democracy, prosperity and a stronger civil society” (29 September 2011). Representatives of Belarusian civil society and opposition had several opportunities to meet with top EU politicians and partners from other countries in the region.
The Head of EU Delegation met participants of the NP of EaP CSF. On 26 September, in the run-up to the Eastern Partnership Summit in Warsaw, Ambassador Maira Mora, Head of EU Delegation to Belarus, met with Belarus' participants of the National Platform for the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum to discuss the agenda and organizational aspects of the summit.
Measures for release of political prisoners considered at OSCE conference. On 28 September, Warsaw hosted a side-event called “Ales Byalyatsky: a symbolic case of the restrictions to political and civil rights in Belarus after the 2010 presidential elections” as part of the OSCE Human Dimension Conference, arranged by a coalition of a number of human rights organisations. Among Belarusian participants were Valiantsin Stefanovich, Andrei Bastunets, Uladzimir Kobets.
Side event on Freedom of Association. On 29 September, The Assembly of Pro-democratic NGOs of Belarus, with participation of Legal Transformation Center (Minsk, Belarus), held a side event within the annual OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw. The topic was Freedom of Association in Belarus: How to Improve Conditions of NGO Work.
Public Address of the Belarusian National Platform of EaP CSF to participants of the EaP Summit in Warsaw. On 28 September, Belarusian National Platform of EaP CSF called on the Heads of States and Governments of Countries of the EaP (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) to synergize their position towards Belarus with the EU approach. The public address was due to the fact that the draft of the Summit Declaration does not include support for the EU approach on the immediate release and rehabilitation of all political prisoners as a condition for political dialogue with Belarus.
Declaration of EaP CSF. On 29 September, in Warsaw, the Civil Society Participants of the Eastern Partnership Conference "Towards a European Community of Democracy, Prosperity and a Stronger Civil Society" adopted a Declaration. In the very first paragraph they express their main concern about the recent arrest of the Belarusian human rights defender Ales Byalyacky and the danger to the lives and health of other political prisoners in Belarus.
Position paper of the Civil Society Forum to the EaP Summit. On 29 September in Warsaw, the CSF Steering Committee presented a position paper, in which it reiterates its role as a fully-fledged participant in the development of the Eastern Partnership and suggests mechanisms to contribute to its implementation. In particular, in section #1, "Strengthen democratic societies," the CSF welcomes the approach of the European Commission and the EU member states to consider civil society in Belarus as a partner despite de-facto suspension of cooperation with the Belarusian government.
Europe’s leaders meet with Belarusian opposition. The Belarusian opposition was met at the highest level at the Eastern Partnership summit. The Belarusian opposition delegation held a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Minister of State responsible for European Issues David Lidington, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, and the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg.
The Belarusian side was represented by relatives of political prisoners – Andrei Sannikov’s sister Iryna Bahdanava, Mikalai Statkevich’s wife Maryna Adamovich – as well as Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, Anatol Lyabedzka, Ryhor Kastusyou, Valery Matskevich, Vital Rymasheuski, Yury Hubarevich, Syarhei Kalyakin, Ales Mikhalevich.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.