Delivered in Plenary - 16th December 2009
As a long-term Belarus watcher, it is important that the EU remains engaged with Belarus, which is a medium-sized European country and which is becoming increasingly self-isolated and turning itself into a kind of Cuba of Europe.
President Lukashenko, who is a quintessentially Homo sovieticus type, nevertheless understands fully what power politics are all about and therefore we need to have a reasonable EU-Belarus trade and political contact and relationship. I therefore do agree that the targeted sanctions need to be eventually lifted and a PCA eventually ratified.
So, after years of the EU isolating Belarus, I now agree that a pragmatic stick-and-carrot approach is the correct one. We must facilitate contacts with Belarus civil society and cheaper visa arrangements, and grant Belarus observer status in the Euronest Assembly, as well as access to the programmes of the Eastern Partnership.
We have made a generous start, and I now call upon Minsk to meet us halfway by improving its human rights and democracy record.