Posted by: ingjerdschou | January 25, 2012

The situation in Belarus

Statement by Mrs. Ingjerd Schou


Wednesday 25 January 2012 Europarådet / Strasbourg

Mr. President,

First of all I would like to commend the rapporteur on a thorough and comprehensive report. Belarus is not a member of the Council of Europe, and their guest status to our Assembly has been suspended, but they are still our neighbors. We must therefore do what we can to help the Belarusian people achieve a democratic and free society. Debating the situation in Belarus is important. I only hope that our message of support for a democratic and free Belarus will encourage Belarusians to continue their struggle. We must show the Belarusians that we have not forgotten about them!

Even if the Belarusian authorities don’t seem to want input from their European neighbors, we must do what we can to get our message across:

-It is not OK to persecute members of the opposition and civil society.

-It is not OK that human rights activist Ales Bialiatski is in prison.

-It is not OK to sentence people to death.

These are but a few of the issues Norway has spoken up about. And these are but a few of the issues covered in our resolution, a resolution I fully support.


We are not the only ones debating how we can contribute to Belarus moving forward in the right direction, towards democracy. We must cooperate effectively with organizations such as the OSCE, the EU and others. I am glad that this is pointed out in the draft recommendation.

The recommendation also calls for all Council of Europe member states to align themselves with the European Union regime of targeted sanctions. The Norwegian government is implementing the extended travel ban and asset freeze in accordance with the European Union’s decision. At the same time Norway is doing what it can to support Belarusian democratic forces and human rights defenders. In 2011 almost three million Euros was given as support to Belarusian human rights and democracy projects in cooperation with Norwegian civil society partners. This project support will be continued unabated in 2012.

Supporting academic freedom is also a Norwegian priority. The European Humanities University in exile in Vilnius is an important institution for Belarusian youth to develop free and critical thinking. We have supported the university with nearly one million Euros over a two-year period.

As politicians we must work through our governments, political parties and civil society in order to empower individuals and organizations working for a more democratic Belarus. One example of what can be done is the seminar organized by The Nordic Council in Vilnius in October 2011 where members of the opposition and Belarusian organizations got together for discussions. After the seminar my colleague and former head of the Norwegian PACE-delegation, Mr. Per-Kristian Foss, pointed out that the many Belarusians working in exile often feel that they have been forgotten about.

We must not forget that the goal is for Belarus to be fully integrated in European and international cooperation, and on the long road that lies ahead we must not let the people of Belarus feel that they have been forgotten.


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