Nyaklyayew, Statkevich appeal to EU over summit invitation for Lukashenka

Leading opposition politicians Mikalay Statkevich and Uladzimir Nyaklyayew have described the European Union’s decision to invite Alyaksandr Lukashenka to an Eastern Partnership summit as its recognition of him as a legitimate president and the legitimation of his repressive policies.

In an appeal to European Union leaders, Messrs. Statkevich and Nyaklyayew warn that the Belarusian authorities have resumed the practice of imprisoning their political opponents while many arrested opposition activists are subjected to mistreatment and denied medical care in custody. Inviting the leader of a police state to a summit in democratic Europe is a step to encourage his policy of repression, says the appeal. 

The former presidential candidates stress that they do not oppose the European Union’s dialogue with the Belarusian authorities and acknowledge that the EU has to make some concessions to Minsk. “But the dialogue cannot but contain some mandatory conditions for its continuation,” they say. “Such mandatory conditions should be democratizing laws governing elections, the registration of parties and NGOs, the media, citizens’ mass assemblies, as well as releasing political prisoners, dropping politically motivated criminal cases and exonerating all those who were earlier convicted in such cases.” 

The EU has put forward no such conditions so far, according to the appeal. “Lukashenka has even been invited to the summit in Brussels without any preliminary conditions,” it says. 

Messrs. Statkevich and Nyaklyayew call on EU politicians to express solidarity with pro-democratic forces fighting for a “democratic and independent Belarus.” “The Belarusian people has the right to freedom,” they stress. 

The appeal is addressed to the leaders of the EU member states, European Parliament members and European Council head Donald Tusk, as well as to Federica Mogherini, vice-president of the European Commission and the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, and Johannes Hahn, the EU’s commissioner for the European Neighborhood Policy and enlargement negotiations. 

When reached by BelaPAN on Tuesday, Mr. Statkevich said that the appeal would be translated into English and sent directly to the addressees within the next few days. 

The Eastern Partnership summit will take place in Brussels on November 24.