Expressing grave concern about the continuing lack of respect for human rights in Belarus, European Union foreign ministers agreed on October 15 2012 to extend existing sanctions against the Lukashenko regime to October 2013.
The EU foreign ministers said that the September 23 2012 parliamentary elections in Belarus “represented another missed opportunity for Belarus to hold elections in line with OSCE and international standards”.
The EU reiterated its call for the immediate release and rehabilitation of all remaining political prisoners in Belarus.
“The Council also remains deeply concerned about decisions concerning additional prison sentences and continued reports of mistreatment of political prisoners,” the foreign ministers said.
A call to Belarusian authorities to stop the harassment of civil society, the political opposition and the independent media was repeated by the EU foreign ministers.
“In the spirit of EU solidarity, the Council again calls on Belarus to respect fully internationally recognised diplomatic privileges and immunities of EU member states’ diplomatic representations and their personnel in Belarus, including to allow them to perform fully their functions,” the foreign ministers said.
The foreign ministers reiterated their “firm commitment” to strengthening the EU’s engagement with the Belarusian people and civil society.
They also repeated their readiness to launch negotiations for visa facilitation and readmission agreements “which would enhance people-to-people contacts to the benefit of the Belarusian population at large”, and the ministers said that they regret the absence of response from the Belarusian authorities to the European Commission’s invitation in June 2011 to start negotiations.
“The Council reiterates its commitment to the policy of critical engagement, including through dialogue and participation in the Eastern Partnership, and recalls that the development of bilateral relations under the Eastern Partnership is conditional on progress towards respect by Belarus for the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights. The Council
reiterates the EU’s willingness to assist Belarus to meet its obligations in this regard.”