Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-03-23-Speech-4-012"

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". Madam President, the recent elections in Belarus and the events on Sunday in the capital, Minsk, have clearly confirmed that President Lukashenko is determined to maintain his rule through whatever means. This is no surprise as it is a repressive regime which shows no tolerance for political competition. The bad news is that the President and the regime still enjoy some support among a significant proportion of the population. The peaceful demonstrations, however, have given evidence of the consolidation of pluralistic forces in the country; this is a positive development. The initial report from the OSCE and the Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights concludes that the elections of 19 March clearly fail to meet OSCE criteria for democratic elections as a result of the disregard for the basic rights of freedom of assembly, association and expression; and owing to the arbitrary use of state power and widespread detentions, and problems with early vote-counting and tabulation processes. In the light of these serious problems, the Commission considers that the presidential elections in Belarus were fundamentally flawed. This raises serious doubts as to whether the results of the elections truly reflect the will of the people of Belarus. The Commission also deplores the non-admittance of the announced and registered OSCE and EU observers, including Members of the European Parliament. We deplore the instigation of criminal cases against opposition members and the arrests of opposition activists and peaceful demonstrators. We urge the Belarusian authorities to release them immediately. The Commission is now considering the issue of sanctions. It is important that we precisely target sanction measures against those individuals who are responsible for the fraudulent elections. We have to avoid hitting the population and we should make this clearly understood. The Commission will be fully involved in preparing such measures. Looking now to the future, we must continue our efforts to support democratisation and civil society. We are finalising a proposal for our assistance strategy for 2007 onwards. In line with the Council conclusions, we will continue supporting democratisation through our different ways and means. We will also continue to support the needs of the population by targeting social and economic developments in Belarusian society. This can be done through our future European Neighbourhood Policy instruments. This type of support will allow us to combine contacts with middle-ranking officials to reduce the self-isolation of Belarus; cooperation with NGOs; and support directly benefiting the population, for example in the health sector, the environment or in the Chernobyl-affected area. The current TV and radio programmes being broadcast to Belarus and supported by the European Community are an important contribution to democratisation and to the visibility of the European Union in Belarus. It is important that we get across to the Belarusian population both the considerable financial effort made by the EU and the potential benefits of the European Neighbourhood Policy. Through our assistance we will be keen to foster people-to-people contacts and we will seek maximum flexibility within the limits of our financial rules."@en1

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