Updated at 13:35,15-07-2024

EU may revise sanctions against Belarusian individuals in first half of 2015

Tanya Korovenkova, BelaPAN

The European Union may revise its sanctions targeting Belarusian individuals in the first half of this year, Andrejs Pildegovics, state secretary at the Latvian foreign ministry, told reporters in Minsk on January 23.

The official noted that virtually no new people had been added to the list of Belarusians subject to the sanctions last year. "The gradual process of revising the sanctions is underway," he said. "We noted that certain political prisoners were freed last year. Mr. Byalyatski is the best-known figure among them."

The EU currently views three people - former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich and opposition activists Mikalay Dzyadok and Ihar Alinevich - as Belarus` political prisoners, according to Mr. Pildegovics. "If there is some progress in this respect, we, of course, will welcome that. The issue of the sanctions will be discussed in the first half of this year. But time will tell whether or not it is revised," he said.

He stressed that the EU and Latvia were open to cooperation with Belarus in various spheres, including in education, environmental protection, migration and trade, but progress in mutual cooperation mostly depended on the Belarusian government.

Mr. Pildegovics noted that he had expressed Latvia`s concerns at talks in the Belarusian foreign ministry. "We presented our proposals in the spheres where we may cooperate but decisions are made by sovereign bodies, Belarus` institutions. We are open to dialogue but we are not setting any conditions," he said.

Speaking about ongoing Belarus-EU talks on visa facilitation, the official denied that their success was conditioned on the release of political prisoners. "The issue of visas is connected with the general understanding of legal framework development, with civil society development and with how we will be cooperating in this legal area," he said.

Specific steps by the Belarusian authorities to prove its openness to dialogue with the EU and hold a presidential election in accordance with European standards, as well as to respect freedom of expression and ethnic minorities` rights would strengthen mutual trust and both sides` desire to "move toward new agreements and Belarus` fuller participation in all processes," said Mr. Pildegovics.

He warned that progress in relations between Belarus and the EU depended on the former`s actions. "We would in no way want to freeze relations [with Belarus]. But, of course, consistent steps are needed for these diplomatic contacts to yield specific results and for the level of communication to become higher," he said.