After the August 9th Belarusian presidential elections, the country has been continuously wracked by large public protests against the regime of former President Lukashenko. The European Union does not view the elections as either free or fair and also does not recognise the continued efforts by dictator Lukashenko to maintain power. The committee meeting included opposition representative in the Belarusian presidential elections Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who received the majority of votes in the elections, as well as European External Action Service secretary-general Maria Schmid.
“We are no longer the opposition, we are the majority. Belarusian citizens want real democracy and for their constitutional rights to be upheld, we want free and fair elections, and the entire nation expects this. We are currently prepared for negotiations with government representatives, and are prepared to appoint negotiators. Unfortunately, the only response we have been met with has been threats and violence. But we will not withdraw and will continue to demand our political rights be respected, we will continue to demand the release of all those illegally imprisoned and tortured,” Tsikhanouskaya said in her address.
MEP Juozas Olekas highlighted during the meeting that the peaceful protests of three decades ago in Lithuania that were in opposition to the USSR regime have numerous similarities to the current situation in Belarus. According to Olekas, the European Union and foreign states’ support is especially important for Belarusian citizens who are fighting for their constitutional rights.
“The events of recent weeks have revived hope in Belarus. Three decades ago in Lithuania, we peacefully protested against the USSR and for our freedom and democracy. In Belarus, I see many similarities to these past events. Unfortunately, the dictator Lukashenko has not only openly falsified the election results, but has also used the state’s powers and violence against Belarusian citizens. He is still trying to cling to a mandate the Belarusian people no longer grant him.
“We must act without delay. Thirty years ago, foreign countries’ aid and support were of massive importance to Lithuania. Today we must state clearly that the rule of law, human rights, the freedom of press and freedom of expression are the core requirements of Western democracy. Belarusian citizens are demanding no more than is their right – the freedom to govern their own country and elect leaders to represent them, ones who would work for the citizens, not against them,” Olekas states.
The social democrat MEP emphasised to his colleagues at the European Parliament emerging global threats – without European Union support and help, Belarus could both politically and financially be influenced by Russia and China, who would exploit the situation for their own their interests.
“The EU has to set an example by aiding Belarus to become stronger and more democratic after this crisis. Without our help, Belarus could become more politically and financially influenced by other states implementing aggressive policies, such as Russia and China. We must immediately condemn all use of violence against peaceful citizens for the short-sighted interests of dictator Lukashenko. Finally, as we are leaders in human rights, freedom and democracy in the world, we must act and apply sanctions on those who oppose these priorities and ensure that Belarusian citizens, for whom our comprehensive assistance is especially important, are provided all necessary assistance,” Olekas said at the AFET.
Following the early August presidential elections in Belarus, Olekas immediately called for a Party of European Socialists presidium, and called upon the leaders of the European Parliament Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, urging them to immediately initiate institutional discussions and necessary sanctions.