Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Fule announced today that the European Commission intended to increase its funds and support for Belarusian civil society fourfold. In his speech to an international Donor's Conference on Belarus in Warsaw, he said: "As a clear demonstration of our unequivocal support to civil society in these difficult times, we will increase our funding from the currently available ?4 million to ?15.6 million. With these measures, we are seeking to avoid isolating the Belarusian population. I believe we have an important responsibility in this regard."
The aid package targeting primarily "Belarusian NGOs, independent media and students who are subject to the regime's repression" will reach the affected population and the civil society already late February, early March, a Commission press release said.
The first step to provide support to the victims of repression and boost assistance to civil society will be funded through the Instrument for Stability to the tune of ?1.7 million. Medium-term support covering the period 2011-2013 will see a fourfold increase reaching ?15.6 million.
In his speech, Stefan Fuleoutlined three main mechanisms of support, namely:
* Support through the Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights and the Non State Actors programme will aim "to strengthen civil society's capacity to promote democratic reform and small-scale local development activities;"
* Annual funding of ?1 million to the European Humanities University in exile in Vilnius will continue providing support to "the young generation in Belarus to pursue high quality, free education";
* The European Commission will provide scholarships and promote student mobility and exchanges between education institutions from Belarus and the EU.
The Commissioner said the Eastern Partnership multilateral track, and in particular the Civil Society Forum should be made full use of in order to strengthen and empower Belarusian civil society.