Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner visits Belarus to encourage further steps towards democratisation - assistance package of 10mio announced

On 22 June Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner will pay an official visit to Belarus. During her stay she will have meetings with President Alexander Lukashenko, Foreign Minister Sergeij Martynov as well as with representatives of the opposition and civil society. The situation in Belarus and the ways in which the relationship between the EU and Belarus can develop in future if and when the authorities take further positive steps with regard to democratic freedoms, human rights and respect for independent media, will be central to discussions. The Eastern Partnership initiative and its potential for active involvement of Belarus especially in the multilateral framework will figure on the agenda as well. During her visit to Minsk, Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner will also announce the allocation of an assistance package of €10mio for the improvement of food safety and quality in Belarus.

Before her departure for Minsk Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner underlined: “Belarus has taken steps in the right direction and we have recognised that, notably by inviting Belarus to participate in the Eastern Partnership. This is an important step forward in our relationship. However, if our relations are to deepen, we will need to see further moves to develop democratic freedoms, for example the possibility for civil society to work and hold meetings without fear of harassment or arrest, and allowing national and international journalists to do their work freely and to distribute their products without restrictions. If we see convincing progress of this kind, the EU has a lot to offer to Belarus in a wide range of areas of mutual interest. How we proceed together, depends on the choices Belarus will make for itself."

She added: "The EU stands ready to support Belarus in many different areas and therefore I am pleased that we could allocate an assistance package of €10mio to the improvement of Belarusian food safety and quality. This is a good example of the cooperation which could develop between us if Belarus chooses the right path. Deeper relations between us would bring very concrete benefits for Belarusian citizens."