The release and rehabilitation of political prisoners remains “an essential and necessary condition for the normalization of relations between the EU and Belarus”. This sentence gave Gunnar Wiegand (Director for Eastern Europe, Southern Caucasus and Central Asia of the External Relations Directorate General of the European Commission) on September 24 at a meeting with journalists in Minsk.
Gunnar Wiegand held a working visit to Belarus on 24-25 September. He met with Deputy Foreign Minister Jelena Kupchina. In the evening, September 24 had scheduled meetings with representatives of civil society and the opposition, on September 25 with the Presidents of the EU missions accredited in Belarus.
Mr. Wiegand described the meeting with Ms. Kupchina as constructive and fruitful. The main objective of the meeting was to discuss to what extent the government was ready to participate in the European Dialogue on Modernization with Belarus, he noted.
When asked by a BelaPAN correspondent whether Minsk had changed its negative attitude to the Dialogue, Mr. Wiegand noted that a constructive effort was being made for this purpose, and that Brussels was aware of the sensitivity of the issue. Mr. Wiegand noted that his visit was part of the EU’s attempt to be closer to Belarus within the framework of the Eastern Partnership.
According to him, there has been less progress in the EU’s relations with Belarus than with the other Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), but the Belarus-EU relationship is gradually improving.
The EU would like to succeed in signing visa facilitation and readmission agreements with Belarus, but there has been no positive reply from Minsk, Mr. Wiegand said.
When asked whether he had brought an invitation for Belarus to participate in the Eastern Partnership summit scheduled to be held in Vilnius in November, Mr. Wiegand answered in the negative. He said that Belarus was expected to be invited in the same format as the other Eastern Partnership countries, but he did not know at what level this would be done.