“This is the first visit by a PACE Rapporteur in more than five years and it is time for Belarus and our Assembly to start looking in the same direction, build mutual trust and set up an honest, transparent and regular collaboration,” said Andrea Rigoni (Italy, ALDE), Rapporteur on the situation in Belarus, underlining the importance of gradually resuming dialogue between PACE and the Parliament of Belarus, at the end of a two-day working visit to Minsk (25-26 February).
“However, steps forward are needed,” he stressed. “It is clear that Council of Europe principles will remain non-negotiable for our Assembly. Specific steps to prove authentic openness to dialogue are well known to the Belarusian leadership and include the release of all political prisoners and the establishment of a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty,” he concluded.
Mr Rigoni discussed an invitation to Belarus to attend a regional conference organised by PACE on 4-5 June 2015 in Paris, with the participation of delegations from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine on “The implementation of the right to free elections: the challenge of implementing the electoral laws and respect for Council of Europe standards”. He also took note of a possible invitation to PACE to monitor the Presidential elections of November 2015.
Finally, the Rapporteur exchanged views with extra-parliamentary opposition leaders, independent journalists and human rights defenders, visited the Council of Europe InfoPoint and discussed the Council of Europe’s activities with a group of students at Minsk University.
The Belarus Parliament’s “Special Guest” status with the Parliamentary Assembly was frozen by the Assembly in January 1997.