Foreign ministers in Warsaw show solidarity with Belarus

Warsaw is hosting the "Solidarity with Belarus" conference, organised by the Polish head of diplomacy, Radoslaw Sikorski.

The meeting, which aims to organise aid for Belarusian society, NGOs, independent politicians and journalists in Belarus, is being attended by foreign ministers from Estonia, Sweden and Romania, deputy heads of diplomacy of other EU states as well as representatives of the US State department.

Deputy foreign minister Krzysztof Stanowski said that the meeting is to find a solution as to how the EU could help Belarus, with each state declaring what it can do for the Belarusian society.

"This aid will depend on what each state is ready to offer. We know that there is a great need to help students expelled from higher education establishments, there is need for youth exchange programmes, as well as for financial support of independent media and NGOs," Stanowski told Polish Radio.

The host of the conference, Minister Radoslaw Sikorski underlined that Warsaw is the most logical venue for such a conference since this country has a long history of support programmes directed at Belarusian society.

"Poland is a leader in organising such aid, and we are certain that many countries would like to follow our footsteps," Sikorski said, adding, however, that there are "no programmes or institutions which could organise such help."

"Poland has such tools, we have a special scholarship programme for Belarusian students, we have the Belsat TV station and the Radio Racja station, and we expect to come up with many more programmes," Sikorski announced.

The Warsaw conference comes after the December repression in Belarus which followed the presidential elections, in which the incumbent Belarusian head of state, Aleksander Lukashenko won a fourth term.

The repressions wound up with the arrest of over 600 representatives of the Belarusian opposition, what some voiced as confirmation of the Belarusian authorities' disregard for basic European values.

The Polish Foreign Ministry hopes the conference will be an element in the emerging policy towards Belarus. As of 1 January this year Poland has introduced free visas for the Belarusian individuals and expanded development aid to 40 million zloty (10 million euro).

Simultaneously, Poland has banned entry to President Lukashenko and members of his government. Similarly, the EU has decided this week to impose visa sanctions on 158 representatives of Lukashenko's regime. (ab/jb)


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