Members' Research Service By / November 23, 2021

EU-Belarus relations: State of play – Human rights situation

EU-Belarus relations during Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s long presidency, which began in 1994, have fluctuated. Although the EU-Belarus Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed in 1995, ratification has been frozen since 1997, owing to a lack of progress in respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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Written by Jakub Przetacznik and Martin Russell.

Over the summer and autumn of 2021, in what is increasingly viewed as a hybrid warfare tactic aimed at destabilising Europe, Aliaksandr Lukashenka’s Belarussian regime has instrumentalised migrants, manipulating the organisation of flights from the Middle East to Minsk and deliberately orchestrating migrants’ onward travel to the EU-Belarus border. With weather conditions endangering migrants’ lives, the situation has also led to serious humanitarian consequences. This activity – which many argue also aims at distracting attention from the worsening situation of freedom in the country, with attacks against independent society, journalists and electronic media users – is only the latest in a string of events underlining deteriorating EU relations with Belarus.

The Lukashenka regime has been isolated since the falsified presidential elections of August 2020, and the brutal crackdown against peacefully protesting Belarusians. Instead of embracing dialogue with the democratic opposition and wider Belarusian society, Lukashenka chose another path, involving continued brutal repression of the country’s citizens. The worsening human rights situation and hijacking of Ryanair flight FR 4978, in June 2021, provoked a response from the EU. This includes a ban on Belarusian air carriers landing in or overflying the EU, a major extension of the list of people and entities already subject to sanctions, and the introduction of sanctions on key sectors of the Belarusian economy.

The European Parliament plays an active part in shaping this EU response. Parliament does not recognise Lukashenka’s presidency and has spoken out on human rights abuses in Belarus. Awarded Parliament’s 2020 Sakharov Prize, the Belarusian democratic opposition is frequently invited to speak for the Belarusian people in the European Parliament. Following the recent developments, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya will make a formal address to the European Parliament in plenary session, on 24 November 2021.

This Briefing updates a previous edition, published in July 2021.

Read the complete briefing on ‘EU-Belarus relations: State of play – Human rights situation‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

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