EU Foreign Ministers Council decided yesterday to impose travel restrictions and an asset freeze against Belarusian officials responsible for the fraudulent Presidential elections last December and the subsequent crackdown on democratic opposition, civil society and independent media.
Meeting in the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, ministers also agreed to reinstate the travel restrictions imposed on some Belarusian officials in the wake of the elections in 2004 and 2006, which had been suspended since 13 October 2008 in order to encourage progress. Council Conclusions said "these restrictive measures and the list of persons targeted will be kept open and under constant review."
In its Conclusions, the Council called for an immediate release of those detained on political grounds after the elections on 19 December and urged Belarus to respect the rights of detainees and their families.
Ministers also called on the Belarusian authorities "to end the persecution of democratic forces, independent media and representatives of civil society, and students, and to end any penalisation or discrimination against those exercising their right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, including the leaders of the opposition parties."
It is important to facilitate people-to-people contacts with Belarus "to the benefit of the Belarusian population at large, " the Conclusions said, adding the Council looked forward to the start of negotiations for visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus, once the negotiating directives have been adopted.
The Conclusions said the EU remained "committed to its policy of critical engagement, including through dialogue and the Eastern Partnership," and recalled that the EU had consistently offered to deepen relations with Belarus provided it made progress towards respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights.