Critical SP Euro-MP not welcome in Belarus

5 November 2008

Critical SP Euro-MP not welcome in Belarus

Belarus is not prepared to allow SP Euro-MP Erik Meijer to visit the country. A delegation from the European Parliament's United Left group was to travel next week to Belarus to meet with both opposition leaders and the government as well as with victims of the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. Erik Meijer was intending to join four other MEPs on the visit, from 10th to 14th November. "I had hoped for an overture," he explained, "but the old line is being continued: contact with critics is not desirable."


Erik Meijer"When I was preparing for the trip everything seemed to be fine," Meijer said, " until 3rd November when I had to get my visa from the embassy in Brussels. It turned out then that the whole thing was cancelled, on the basis of transparently false arguments such as that there was a possibility that it would freeze in the radioactive area and that a new parliament was being installed. Things which everyone would have known about long before this. But the last argument was the most striking, that the government of Belarus had problems with 'a member of the delegation.' They didn't specify a name, but it is clear that it was me."

No opposition

Belarus, which lies between Poland and Russia, has been called Europe's last dictatorship. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, little appears to have changed. President Lukashenko's power is unassailable and at the recent parliamentary elections not a single seat was won by an opposition MP. The EU attempted for a number of years to isolate the country, but shortly before the elections, when political prisoners were released, began to make overtures. On 8th October the European Parliament discussed the results of the elections in Belarus, and Erik Meijer acted as spokesman for the GUE/NGL. He said that Lukashenko undoubtedly continued to enjoy widespread support, in part because the country had suffered less chaos and poverty than had other former Soviet republics. "But that does not mean that he can make life impossible for any and every opposition, establish an electoral system which counters any such opposition, that the police can smash up demonstrations and that people should feel the need to flee their country." Meijer argues that EU countries should seek more contact with both the regime and the opposition.

Critical resolution

A few years ago Erik Meijer addressed a meeting of Amnesty International on Belarus and on 9th October this year voted with seven members of the 41-strong GUE/NGL for the European Parliament's critical resolution on the remarkable election result, the only member of the proposed delegation to have done so. "For me the question of whether the regime was willing to talk to those of us who had voted in favour of this resolution was important," he said. "I wasn't all that keen on the text of the resolution, but voting for it fitted better with my criticisms than voting against or abstaining would have done. If after that they had been prepared to talk then that would have meant that something in the country was nevertheless changing. Any visit must allow space for criticism and confrontation. They must not be given the impression that they were getting a visit from a delegation of yes-men and yes-women, who would protect the government there from all criticism. The cancellation of the visit because one member of the delegation was unwelcome unfortunately makes it clear that very little has in fact changed," said a disappointed Meijer.

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