MEPs condemn Belarus presidential elections
BBC Democracy Live - 12 Janury 2011
Belarus has been described as being run by a "criminal regime", during a special hearing of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee following the country's recent presidential elections.
The claim was made by Estonian liberal MEP Kristiina Ojuland, following the election that saw incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko re-elected for a fourth term in December, in an election that was described as "flawed" by independent observers.
Security forces in the capital Minsk arrested and imprisoned more than 600 opposition activists in riots that took place immediately following the disputed election, which saw President Lukashenko returned to power with a reported 80% of the vote.
At least seven presidential candidates were among those detained and some of them were reportedly also beaten by police.
The special committee session was opened by the President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek, who said the Lukashenko government lacked "democratic legitimacy".
He said there needed to be a "revision" of EU policy towards Belarus.
However European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy Stefan Füle told MEPs that there should be no return to the previous policy of "isolating or cutting off Belarus".
He described the country as "neighbours and partners of the EU" and suggested alternative sanctions such as a travel ban on President Lukashenko.
British conservative MEP Charles Tannock described Lukashenko as the "Homo Sovieticus" of Europe, and called for the Belarussian constitutional court to call for a re-run of the elections, similar to what happened in Ukraine during the Orange Revolution.