Video: French ambassador gives news conference in Minsk

Mireille Musso, the French ambassador to Belarus, on February 4 gave a news conference in Minsk. On January 1, the French embassy in Minsk took over the local presidency of the European Union.

The ambassador said that the European Union hopes that the year 2008 will see Belarus making progress on democratic reform.

"Both President Lukashenka and the government of the country wish the development of the independent Belarusian state and closer relations with the European Union," she said. "We think that these efforts to develop and modernize the state are very encouraging. The EU is ready to assist Belarus in democratization, the strengthening of independence and the modernization of the state."

Ms. Musso expressed hope that Belarus and the EU will actively cooperate this year within the block's European Neighborhood Policy but reiterated that in order to enjoy benefits of the participation Minsk should first fulfill demands outlined in the EU's 12-step strategy.

She said that the EU is "happy to welcome" the release of "three prisoners" referring most likely to the release of opposition youth leader Zmitser Dashkevich and businessmen Yury Lyavonaw and Mikalay Awtukhovich.

"We hope that more releases will follow," she said.