Member of the German-Belarusian parliamentary group Margaret Bouse commented to DW about the situation in Belarus before the presidential elections and demanded the immediate release of political prisoners.
Bundestag Deputy from the party “Soyuz-90″/”green”, member of the German-Belarusian parliamentary group Bawse Margarethe (Margarete Bause) commented to DW the agreement on visa facilitation between the EU and Belarus, explained what can and should Germany do to improve the situation with human rights in Belarus, and to estimate the probability of a “color revolution” there.
DW: Ms. Bause the last time you were in Minsk, and what are your impressions from that trip?
Margaret Bouse: In Minsk I was at the beginning of February. I was under the impression that there was great hopes and expectations of Europe in General and Germany in particular. And it concerns not only economic cooperation, but also democratic reforms, changes in the field of human rights and the rule of law. I had a very lively meeting with human rights activists and representatives of the opposition. And in their circles had high hopes that Europe will support the process of democratization in the country.
– Where does this hope after all these years of strict state control?
– It seems to me that the source of these hopes is that people see what freedoms enjoy in the West. In Belarus, there are very courageous civil society, which does not allow itself to be intimidated. And it receives international support.
The European Union, the basic values are human rights and the rule of law, are increasingly behaving in matters of human rights violations in Belarus in matters of the death penalty in the country, and in regard to the role of Alexander Lukashenko. And we have a responsibility to justify these hopes
– How do you assess in this context, the facilitation of the visa regime between the EU and Belarus?
– I regard it as a wrong signal. The essence of the agreements is in the fact that as one of the measures will be resumed the deportation of citizens back to Belarus (according to the readmission agreement. – Ed.). But if people are trying here in the West, to escape from persecution at home, I can’t see it (the possibility of deportation. – Ed.) as a positive step. Germany and the EU should behave much more consistently in terms of compliance with standards in the field of human rights in Belarus.
What can and what should Germany and the EU to improve the situation with human rights in Belarus?
– The most important thing at the moment is the requirement of free and fair elections and the release of political prisoners. And the admittance of independent observers from the OSCE. And if all these requirements are not met, you will need to think about the abolition of the visa agreement, and also, perhaps, to impose sanctions.
– Why the German government so reluctant to comment on the situation in Belarus ahead of the presidential elections?
– I also have the impression that the German foreign Ministry was very reserved in his statements on the subject of human rights violations in Belarus and calls for the observance of democratic standards and the holding of free and fair elections.
From this line there are strategic reasons – perhaps in Berlin I don’t like to put pressure on Belarus with regard to its intermediate position between the EU and Russia. But it seems to me that, in the light of hopes among the citizens of Belarus in relation to the EU we need a much stronger demand to comply with our European standards. And to side with human rights activists in Belarus.
– How do you assess the situation with the collection of signatures in support of nomination of alternative candidates for presidency?
– It’s all the mechanisms of Lukashenka, to ensure that the elections were not held fairly and freely. And to take advantage of the current President and put pressure on the rivals and to intimidate the civil society to stay in power. And for me personally, all this intrigue with signatures – this is another step to prevent free elections.
Some German observers say that free elections in Belarus impossible and that the winner is known already. Do you agree with this assessment?
– I would not have wanted in the first place, leave all hopes. It seems to me that especially now, a few weeks before the vote, Europe must clearly define its position. And, once again, to demand free and fair elections with independent monitors, as well as the immediate release of political prisoners.
– And how realistic that the EU will make such demands?
– From today (1 July. – Ed.) Germany became the Chairman of the EU Council. And I think that is one of the objectives of Germany in this role – play for the respect our common European values. Belarus is called “last dictatorship of Europe”, and we cannot be indifferent to what is happening in the neighborhood. It seems to me that we need to support the democratic opposition not only in Hong Kong but also in Belarus.
– But the German government now has other worries – pandemic and the economic crisis…
– Yes, but human rights are the Foundation of our civil coexistence. It does not matter what country around the world. So we cannot assume that human rights will be in the shadow of a pandemic, we see that in the context of pandemics such as human rights are violated massively, especially in Belarus, with its dramatic consequences of the pandemic.
One of the most popular opponents of Lukashenko in this election Victor Babariko long worked in the subsidiary Bank of Gazprombank. That gives reason to say that Russia has its own stakes in this election campaign. How do you feel about this?
– We in Germany, too, there were attempts of Russian intervention in the elections, which were carried out through the “Alternative for Germany”. So I can well imagine that trying to exert influence in other countries. But with all this, it is important that all candidates have equal chances and will decide by the voters.
From my point of view, arrests of candidates for the post of President is a maneuver Lukashenko to delegitimize opponents. And I demand the release of those arrested.
– How do you assess the probability of a “color revolution” in Belarus?
– I think that among the citizens of the country’s strongest hope for a democratic change. In what form will it be to predict not taken. I hope for an evolutionary transition to democratic reforms with EU support. I would have welcomed the appearance at the head of the Belarusian state of the individual, protecting human rights and conducting democratic reforms. And it should be possible in this presidential election.
– Why Lukashenka so nervous on the eve of elections?
Because he sees that he has lost the support of the population. And autoritarna he begins to act, and the more aggressive he tries to suppress any democratic competition. And we know from the experience of other authoritarian regimes – the weaker the support, the more aggressive they behave. It’s just a sign that the era of Lukashenka is over. And the more you support the democratic forces of the country from the EU.