The time for talks on the facilitation of the visa regime with the European Union is inopportune, the Belarusian ambassador to Germany, Andrey Hiro, said Monday, speaking at a discussion on Belarus-EU relations in the Bundestag, BelaPAN said.
The talks would be premature now that more than 200 Belarusian officials are banned from traveling to the EU, said the ambassador.
In his speech, Mr. Hiro also criticized the EU for “double standards” and restrictions on Belarus’ participation in its European Partnership program, as well as its failure to invite Belarusian officials to an event at which a project called the European Dialogue on Modernization with Belarusian society had been launched.
“Belarus is interested in a dialogue with the West, and has always been,” said the ambassador.
Gunnar Wiegand, who heads the Department for Russia, Eastern Partnership, Central Asia, Regional Cooperation and the OSCE at the EU European External Action Service, said that “millions of Belarusians” could benefit from the facilitation of the visa regime, but the authorities would not respond to the EU’s proposal to start the negotiations.
As for the EU’s sanctions against Minsk, Mr. Wiegand stressed that a condition for their abolition had been outlined clearly: the authorities should release and exonerate all political prisoners. Minsk should make progress in human rights and fundamental freedoms to mend its ties with the EU, he said.
Patricia Flor, the German foreign ministry`s special representative for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, expressed concern about the health condition of former presidential candidate Mikalay Statkevich and opposition activist Syarhey Kavalenka held in prison.
Reiner Lindner, chairman of German-Belarusian Society, noted what he called signals sent by Minsk that it was ready to make steps toward the EU.
Joerg Forbrig, an analyst with the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Berlin, said that the current period in Belarus-EU relations revived memories of the summer of 2008 when the Belarusian authorities tried to avoid aggravating relations with the bloc and promised to release all political prisoners. He called on the EU not to repeat now mistakes made four years earlier.
The discussion in the German parliament had been organized by German-Belarusian Society.