Ahead of an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council, convened by High Representative Josep Borrell for this afternoon, the Socialists and Democrats strongly condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters, including torture and arrest, by the Belarusian regime which have now occurred 4 days in a row since the stolen presidential elections of 9 August. The S&Ds call on EU foreign ministers to ensure there are consequences from the elections, which were neither free nor fair, by applying targeted sanctions against Lukashenko's regime, expelling Belarus from the Easter Partnership Programme and calling for new presidential elections under the scrutiny of international observers.
Kati Piri, S&D Vice-President responsible for foreign affairs, said:
“Lukashenko is literally beating up his own citizens, who in a display of extraordinary courage have taken to the streets in defense of fair and transparent elections. We cannot look away when a dictator at the EU’s borders is stealing his people’s votes, jailing thousands of peaceful demonstrators, and serious indications of torture on a massive scale are abound.
“For too long the EU followed a policy of “critical engagement” with Belarus. Now, we must conclude that this policy has neither improved the human rights situation in the country nor led to any meaningful democratic reforms.
“The S&D group calls for a strong, principled reaction by EU foreign ministers. We urge the Council to impose targeted sanctions against Belarusian officials, who are responsible for the falsification of the election, the violence against protesters and arbitrary arrests. Lukashenko himself must be labelled a persona non grata in the European Union. While it is our duty to support civil society, also financially, the Belarusian regime must be banned from receiving any EU funds. Additionally, the EU must call for new presidential elections in which all candidates can compete in a free and fair environment, under the supervision of international observers. It is the right of the Belarusian people to elect their own president.
"Our group also calls for an overhaul of the Eastern Partnership Programme. We cannot be in partnership with countries where we witness the violent repression of political opposition and civil society. Dictators are the enemies of free societies. Both Belarus and Azerbaijan should be immediately expelled from the Eastern Partnership Programme.”
S&D foreign affairs spokesperson Tonino Picula, added:
“Following the deadly explosion in the Beirut port caused by the criminal negligence of responsible authorities, the 253 million euros pledged at the donor’s conference last week are a much needed first step to provide relief to the Lebanese people. Additional assistance, particularly food and medical aid, and means to rebuild the essential civilian infrastructure, like schools, hospitals and electricity girds are urgently needed and we call on the international community and the Commission to deliver it rapidly.
“Now that Prime-Minister Hassan Diab has resigned, the Lebanese people deserve a swiftly formed new government that lives up to their expectations. We call on all Lebanese political forces to put the interests of the country first and unite in implementing the urgent reforms, free from geopolitical interests of external actors.
“The still ongoing drilling activities in the Cypriot waters by Turkey and the increasing tensions in the Aegean Sea such, especially the latest naval mobilisation continue to be extremely worrying. The S&D group supports the decision by EU Foreign Ministers to impose targeted sanctions, but given the gravity of the situation, we expect them to consider further restrictive measures against Turkey.”