VILNIUS - On Jan. 21 in Vilnius, Lithuanian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Evaldas Ignatavicius met with heads of EU diplomatic representations in Minsk and discussed with them the priorities for Lithuania’s chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the situation in Belarus, reports news agency ELTA. They also discussed steps towards the preparation of a common EU position on further relations with Belarus and the EU support for the Belarusian civil society.
The deputy minister reiterated the deep regret that was expressed by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Azubalis, over the Belarusian authorities’ decision to close the OSCE office in Minsk.
Deputy Minister Ignatavicius believes that Belarusian authorities themselves should be interested in strengthening the OSCE activities in their country. Therefore, Lithuania, as chairman of the OSCE, urges Belarus to reconsider the decision regarding the work of the OSCE office in Minsk.
Lithuania aims for the implementation of commitments to human rights and fundamental freedoms in the entire OSCE space and continues consultations on a meaningful OSCE representation in Belarus. The deputy minister also stressed that support for Belarusian civil society should become an important element in shaping the EU and OSCE policy towards Belarus.
The participants of the meeting shared information on the ongoing EU support for Belarusian civil society, plans and possible areas of support. A joint concern was voiced for the representatives of the Belarusian opposition and civil society who are still detained and remain in prison.
The EU diplomats spoke up for sending a strong signal to Belarusian civil society and facilitating a visa regime for the citizens of Belarus. According to the heads of the EU diplomatic representations in Minsk, the soonest possibility to send such a signal will be during the EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Jan. 31.
Before the meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, heads of twelve diplomatic representations in Minsk and heads of the European Commission’s Delegation visited EHU, where they had an opportunity to speak with the university’s management, its students and with the witnesses of the events of Dec. 19 in Minsk. Some EHU students observed the presidential elections in Belarus, and some of them were detained and kept in the KGB-isolator. Two of them are still imprisoned.
The EU diplomats voiced their support for the continuity of EHU activities, as well as for the projects to strengthen the independent media in Belarus. Belarusian authorities closed down EHU in 2004, and since 2005 it has been based in Lithuania.