Statement of the Steering Committee on the occasion of the Annual Assembly of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum on ensuring the rights of citizens and the threat of loss of sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus
Since the end of 2018, the authorities of the Republic of Belarus and the Russian Federation have been negotiating the deeper integration which can jeopardize the sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus and the respect for civil rights. The meeting of the presidents of Belarus and Russia is scheduled for 8 December 2019. A set of new integration documents is going to be signed in the meeting.
The process of the deeper integration of Belarus and Russia is a matter of great concern to the civil society of Belarus and other countries due to the following reasons:
- There is a lack of transparency and the access of the citizens to credible information. All negotiations on the deeper integration are held in closed session, public access to the documents is restricted, the documents are classified as “for internal use”.
- There is a lack of inclusiveness and civil control: no civil society organisations, local communities, private business owners, trade unions of Belarus are included in the process of negotiations and integration documents preparation;
- The parties of the intergovernmental negotiations of the deeper integration are not equal, Belarus depends on Russia.
The negotiations take place against the formation of the new parliament of the Republic of Belarus (The National Assembly) in November 2019 resulting in the elections which were recognised as not conforming to the international standards for democracy, freedom and transparency of the electoral process by the international missions (ODIHR OSCE) and national independent missions (“Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections”). There are considerable restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression, including the Internet. The practice of politically motivated administrative arrests and criminal proceedings with the purpose to pursue civil activists still takes place in Belarus.
We, delegates and participants of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum:
- call upon the authorities of Belarus to adopt changes in the Belarusian electoral legislation which were recommended by ODIHR OSCE and belarusian human rights organisations, on peaceful assembly taking into account the OSCE Guidelines in the freedom of peaceful assembly and also in the registration of public associations applying the registration principle, reverse administrative liability for the activities of unregistered public associations, stop the pressure on freelance journalists and independent media representatives, politically motivated administrative and criminal proceedings of social activists, rehabilitate former political prisoners;
- call upon the authorities of Russia and Belarus to ensure transparency and inclusiveness of the deeper integration negotiations process and take into account the views of the Russian and Belarusian citizens on this issue.
- point out that the ongoing process of the deeper integration with Russia bears the mark of forcing Belarus to relinquish sovereignty and relies on the tools of economic blackmail by Russia;
- call upon the European Union representatives and individual member states of the EU to consider that due to the lack of inclusiveness and transparency in the process of deeper integration and also due to the lack of democratic representation mechanisms and respect for human rights in Belarus, the decisions of the authorities do not reflect the opinion of civil society and the people of Belarus on the integration with Russia;
- emphasize that under the current circumstances, no integration agreements should be recognised as legitimate by the international community.
- We call upon the European Union government, Governments and civil society organizations of the countries of the Eastern partnership to contribute to the reinforcement of the issue of sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus, respect for human rights in Belarus, the Belarusian election procedures in accordance with the international standards on the agenda of EU-Belarus Coordination Group and Human Rights Dialogue, through “EU-RUSSIA”, in multilateral meetings in terms of the Eastern Partnership and in bilateral negotiations.