European Parliamant will discuss Paleckis’ report on Belarus on May 29

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Recommendations by Justas Paleckis, the European Parliament’s rapporteur on Belarus, will be debated by the organization’s Foreign Affairs Committee on May 29.

In his draft report, the Lithuanian politician suggests that the European Union suspend the visa ban against key Belarusian officials. He insists that the human rights situation in Belarus improved in 2012.

As Mr. Paleckis told to BelaPAN, work is currently under way to translate his report into 23 European languages. “We will discuss the document in a week and then invite proposals for revising it,” he said. “In August, the Foreign Affairs Committee will give second reading to the report. In September, the European Parliament will discuss it during its plenary session.”

If there are major disagreements between different groups within the European Parliament, it will be possible to vote on the report clause by clause, Mr. Paleckis said.

As for the criticism of my recommendations, people are free to make up their own minds about them,” he said. “That is why there will be an opportunity to revise the report. Indeed, there’re many corrections that I will make myself to make it more thorough and specific.”

Mr. Paleckis explained that he would list some indications of the improvement of the situation in Belarus, including the closure of a criminal case against Hrodna-based journalist Andrzej Poczobut, and that he would also mention some negative developments, such as the recent jailing of journalists Henadz Barbarych, Alyaksandr Yarashevich and Dzmitry Halko.
Mr. Paleckis said that his remark about the improvement of the human rights situation in Belarus was based on a report by a Belarusian rights organization Viasna. The report said that instances of politically motivated persecution, such as arrests and searches, had decreased three times in number in 2012, he noted.
Mr. Paleckis stressed that there could be no significant rapprochement between Minsk and the EU without the release of the political prisoners in Belarus.
“Government officials hinted while meeting with me in Minsk this past March that it was possible to free them,” he said. “However, they didn’t say when they could be released and didn’t promise any specific steps. I do not rule out that my report will become tougher if the political prisoners are not released.”
Mr. Paleckis said that his recommendation to suspend the visa bans against Belarusian officials applied to, above all, Foreign Minister Uladzimir Makey. “It is no secret that the EU countries are discussing this issue,” he said. “Most of them are currently in favor of removing him from the EU blacklist. However, we need a consensus because even one vote against the proposal would mean that it has been rejected.”
The European Parliament’s resolutions on Belarus in the last 19 years have always been a response to something negative, Mr. Paleckis noted. Only one delegation of the European Parliament has visited Belarus in the last 10 years, although Russia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine receive such delegations on a regular basis, he said. “My colleagues do not understand what it going on in Belarus,” Mr. Paleckis said. “It’s important to give them as much information about this country as possible. Belarus shouldn’t be a blank spot on the map for them. It’s necessary to think how to improve the situation of the Belarusian people and not sit on our hands.”

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