The European Union has condemned the recent developments in Belarus that have urged Belarusians to the streets to protest their government’s proposed “tax on spongers”. Many have been forcefully detained, including journalists covering the events. Brussels urged Minsk to immediately release those detained and reminded that the freedom of association and of assembly need to be ensured. Despite the crackdown on peaceful protesters, President Lukashenko, often referred to as Europe’s last dictator, said on Thursday that “Belarus is a European country. And here there are human rights, rule of law and democracy just like in Europe.”
According to the EU, the latest developments in Belarus highlight a clear need for a broader democratization process in the country. The EU has repeatedly stressed that Europe was committed to a stable, democratic and prosperous future for Belarus, for the benefit of its people, and would continue its work with all the stakeholders with this objective firmly in mind. Brussels also said that the steps taken by Belarus to respect universal fundamental freedoms, rule of law and human rights would remain key for the shaping of the mutual relationship with the country.
Amnesty International says that Belarus still retains severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, of association and of peaceful assembly despite the fact that the EU has lifted almost all its sanctions against persons and entities in Belarus. Moreover, the Belarusian government continues to refuse co-operation with the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the country.