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Summary: 29 November 2011, Brussels - The ongoing repression of civil society and the ways in which the EU might increase its support to Belarusian society were the main topics of a meeting between Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, and representatives of the seven major opposition parties and movements in Brussels today.
"The level of repression against the political opposition, as well as civil society and the independent media, by the regime of President Lukashenka is increasing and is frankly unacceptable,“ Commissioner Füle said, expressing the EU´s concerns about a range of recent measures which include draconian legislation to further limit freedom of assembly and outlaw foreign financing of NGOs.
"I am delighted to have met today the representatives of the seven major opposition parties and movements as it is clear that Belarus needs a strong and united opposition capable of providing the Belarusian people with a clear democratic alternative to the current repressive policies of the regime,“ Š.Füle stated. He reassured his partners that the situation in the country remained high on the EU´s agenda. He also reiterated the fact that the EU was committed to maintaining a close dialogue with the political opposition and civil society inBelarus and would re-engage with the official authorities inMinsk only when all political prisoners had been released and rehabilitated.
Last week, Commissioner Š.Füle, in a joint statement with EU High Representative Catherine Ashton, deplored the sentencing of human rights defender Ales Byalyatski and condemned the ongoing practice of putting regime opponents behind bars on politically-motivated and fabricated charges.
Today's discussion with the Belarusian opposition is part of a wider European consideration of what more the EU can do to respond to the deteriorating situation in the country.
"We want to strengthen our dialogue with the opposition and civil society in Belarus and offer the people there a clear vision for a better, European future,“ Š.Füle said to the representatives of the United Civil Party, Fair World, Belarusian Christian Democracy, Belarusian Popular Front, Tell the Truth Campaign, Movement For Freedom and European Belarus.
The Commissioner also questioned the way in which the Lukashenka regime is dealing with the country's current economic difficulties with a lack of badly needed economic reform efforts increasingly compensated by the sale of state assets.
The meeting took place shortly before the first anniversary of the Presidential elections in Belarus last December which marked the onset of another wave of repression against the critics of the Lukashenka regime. In response, the EU introduced restrictive measures against the representatives of the regime and increased its assistance to civil society and victims of political persecution. Commissioner Š.Füle is due to set out his vision for a European future for the country in a keynote speech at a forum on Belarus next week in Brussels.