"It is essential for the Council of Europe to start thinking seriously about what it can do to promote democratic values in Belarus. I am against severing all contact with the Belarus authorities – as we have seen, that has no effect on the situation in the country, and simply makes it harder to get through to the people", declared Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE) today, as he called for the start of step-by-step dialogue, based on a policy of good neighbourly relations.
In an exchange of views on the situation in Belarus, Mr Rigoni, rapporteur on the question, made his own position clear: the Assembly and the Council of Europe must restart the political dialogue with Belarus, the only European country still outside the Council, whose special guest status was suspended in 1997, following restriction by referendum of the rights and prerogatives of its parliament.
"Belarus shares its past with the rest of Europe and is open to dialogue. We want stability and democracy for our country, and we want to come closer to applying Council of Europe standards, as our intended moratorium on the death penalty shows," said Natalia Andreichik, Chair of the Standing Committee for Legislation and State Administration of the Council of the Republic of Belarus, who took part in the discussion. She said that her country could contribute to the work of the Council of Europe and PACE, and particularly their work on corruption, trafficking in human beings, inter-religious dialogue and migration.
However, Vinchuk Viachorka, of the BNF opposition party, said that the situation regarding human rights and the rule of law had worsened noticeably since the beginning of the year, that the authorities were still obstructing the activities of the opposition, NGOs, civil society and the independent media – and that people were still being sent to prison for political reasons.