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12° Nicosia,
28 May, 2024
 
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Defying dictatorship

We cannot forget the people of Belarus. Their fight for freedom and democracy embodies the values that the European Union is built upon.

Opinion

Opinion

By Roberta Metsola* and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya*

In their quiet struggle for freedom and democracy, the people of Belarus represent a beacon of courage and resilience. Despite decades of authoritarian rule and systematic repression, they are relentless in their pursuit of a life of liberty. It is a battle that, especially in this moment of global instability, cannot be forgotten.

The basic values of respect for human dignity and rights, freedom, democracy, equality, and the rule of law are anchors that pull us, Europeans, together and keep us united. Yet, on our shared continent, the people of Belarus are still persistently denied all of that.

Instead, they live under continuous intimidation and threats. They live under a regime, where people are thrown into prison on trumped-up charges, where lawyers are stripped of their licenses under accusations of fraudulent misconduct, where hundreds of independent media outlets are effectively censored and forced to shut down, where more than a thousand non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) are deregistered and blocked from doing their job. They live under a regime which is holding more than 1,500 political prisoners. Others are forced to live in exile, stripped of their passports, while investigated, tried and convicted in absentia.

In its contempt for democratic values and human rights, the current regime in Belarus clings to power by every possible means. Even by converting the country into a Russian vassal state, hosting Russian nuclear weapons near EU borders.

But Belarus’ essence is inherently European, embedded in its values, culture and aspiration for a better future. Its historical lineage can be traced back to Belarusian Francysk Skaryna, one of the earliest enlighteners of the European Renaissance, and its unique contributions to European art and thought, exemplified by the visionary works of Marc Chagall, that resonate with European ideals.

In the face of increasingly desperate attempts to suppress dissent, Belarusians have demonstrated unwavering commitment in their pursuit of freedom and democracy. It resonates with the struggles and aspirations of countless Europeans throughout history.

The European Parliament echoes the declarations of the Belarusian democratic leaders on the European aspirations of the people of Belarus. Our door will always remain open to all those European states who share our values and ideals and who look to Europe as their home. That includes Belarus once it becomes democratic, free and independent.

Until then, continuing to include Belarus in the European narrative and keeping it high on the agenda remains essential to fostering a democratic transition in the country and upholding Belarus’ independence and sovereignty.

In Belarusians, Ukrainians and Moldovans, Europe finds itself. It finds the values that make up the fabric of the European project. The fight for a democratic Belarus is not just a nation’s fight; it is a fight to preserve the values that define our continent.

That is why the European Parliament has been calling for continued support of the Belarusian democratic forces and civil society. This means increased sanctions against Lukashenka’s illegitimate regime for its crimes and its involvement in the Russian aggression against Ukraine. We also need a united position to protect and support those who have fled repression and who have found refuge within the European Union.

It is crucial to understand that Europe can never realize its full potential while Belarus remains under dictatorship. A free, democratic, and independent Belarus is essential for peace and security in Europe. This is the only path forward to ensure the peaceful future Europeans truly deserve.

*Roberta Metsola is the President of the European Parliament and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is the Head of the United Transitional Cabinet of Belarus

 

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Cyprus  |  Belarus  |  Europe  |  EU

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