Annex: Council conclusions on Belarus
"Recalling the Council conclusions of 31 January
2011, 20 June 2011, 23 March 2012 and 15 October 2012, the Council
highlights the importance it attaches to relations with the Republic
of Belarus and its people.
"At the same time, the Council remains concerned
with the situation of human rights in Belarus and recalls that
EU-Belarus relations should be based on common values, especially
respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
"The Council acknowledges the steps taken by
Belarus over the last two years that have contributed to improving
EU-Belarus relations, such as the proactive participation of Belarus
in the Eastern Partnership and in the Interim Phase on Modernisation
Issues, the resumption of the EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue,
the start of negotiations on Visa Facilitation and Readmission
Agreements and on a Mobility Partnership, the active pursuit cooperation
in harmonisation of digital markets and the signature of a Cooperation
Arrangement on an Early Warning Mechanism in the energy sector.
The Council also values Belarus' constructive role in the region.
"The release of all the remaining political
prisoners on 22 August 2015 was a long sought step that the EU
had consistently called for. In response to the releases and the
presidential elections of 11 October 2015 that were held in an
environment free from violence, and taking into consideration
the overall state of EU-Belarus relations, the Council agreed
in October 2015 on a four-month suspension of most of the restrictive
The Council recognises that there is an opportunity for EU-Belarus
relations to develop on a more positive agenda and that progress
in a variety of fields can better be achieved through enhanced
channels of communication.
"In this context, the Council agrees that the
EU will not extend the restrictive measures for 170 individuals
and three companies whose listings are currently suspended. The
Council further agrees that the arms embargo and the restrictive
measures related to the four individuals listed in connection
with the unresolved disappearances of two opposition politicians,
one businessman and one journalist, will be extended for a period
of twelve months.
"In view of the Belarusian 2016 parliamentary
elections, the Council urges the Belarusian authorities to swiftly
take forward the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR's final report
on the conduct of the 11 October 2015 Presidential elections,
including on the legal and procedural framework. The Council welcomes
Belarus' growing openness to dialogue and cooperation with the
OSCE/ODIHR. The Council recalls the importance it attaches to
improvements in this area and to respect for human rights, democracy
and the rule of law in Belarus.
"The Council condemns the application of the
death penalty in Belarus, and notably deplores the two recent
death sentences pronounced, and urges the Belarusian authorities
to set up a moratorium as a first step towards its abolition.
The Council looks forward to forthcoming expert and public events
on the death penalty planned to take place in 2016.
The Council reiterates its call for the reinstatement of the civil
and political rights of former political prisoners and highlights
the need to ensure freedom of association and assembly, including
by allowing the registration of political and civil society organisations.
The Council stresses the importance of a vibrant civil society
to the social and economic well-being of a country, and calls
on the Belarusian authorities to allow civil society to be more
involved in the discussions on government policy. The Council
further urges the Belarusian authorities to eliminate all obstacles
to the exercise of a free and independent media, including through
the registration of new media outlets and the accreditation of
journalists. The Council further calls on Belarus to respect the
rights of persons belonging to national minorities. The Council
will continue to follow closely the situation in this regard.
"The Council welcomes the resumption of the
EU-Belarus Human Rights Dialogue and looks forward to its next
round, which Belarus has offered to host in Minsk in late spring.
Together with Belarus' engagement in the 2015 Universal Periodic
Review these are positive steps and the Council encourages the
Belarusian authorities to continue work in these areas and calls
on Belarus to do so with the participation of civil society.
The EU further calls on Belarus to follow up on recommendations
made by UN treaty bodies and to cooperate fully with UN special
procedures including the Special Rapporteur on the situation
of human rights in Belarus and other mechanisms. The Council
encourages increased cooperation between Belarus and the Council
of Europe with a view to becoming a full member. The Council reiterates
the EU's willingness to assist Belarus to meet its obligations
towards democratisation and full respect for human rights, and
looks forward to discuss these matters soon at a bilateral level.
"The Council reiterates its firm commitment
to strengthening the EU's engagement with the Belarusian people
and civil society. The EU attaches great importance to enhanced
people-to-people contacts with Belarus, to be encouraged through
programmes such as Erasmus+, and looks forward to the swift conclusion
of the negotiations and signature of the Visa Facilitation Agreement,
the Readmission Agreement and the Mobility Partnership.
"The Council reaffirms that good neighbourly
relations and regional cooperation are important elements for
enhancing EU-Belarus cooperation. Recalling its conclusions of
20 July 2015 on Energy Diplomacy the Council reiterates the importance
of ensuring nuclear safety beyond the borders of the EU and calls
on Belarus to cooperate constructively with the relevant international
authorities in this regard.
"The Council remains open to the further development
of EU-Belarus relations, and to taking further steps to enhance
political relations and sectoral cooperation in the appropriate
context. The Council welcomes the Commission's intention to start
Twinning cooperation with Belarus this year. It underlines the
importance of the ENP Review and notes that Belarus provides a
good opportunity to apply a differentiated approach. The Council
therefore decided to accelerate the implementation of measures
aimed at enhancing EU-Belarus cooperation in a number of economic,
trade and assistance related fields, with the goal of modernising
Belarus and its economy and for the benefit of the Belarusian
population, including in view of WTO accession and in cooperation
with International Financial Institutions, in particular the EIB
and the EBRD in line with their respective mandates. The Council
also encourages Belarus to accelerate much needed economic reforms.
Tangible steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental
freedoms, rule of law and human rights will remain key for the
shaping of the EU's future policy towards Belarus.
"The Council will remain seized of the work
of the EU-Belarus Coordination Group as a follow-up to the Interim
Phase on modernisation issues, including an agenda which contains
human rights issues, and looks forward to the involvement of civil
96 See Council conclusions on Belarus. Back