Representatives of Belarusian Civil Society Visit the Council of Europe

On January 27-29, 2015 a delegation of Belarusian civil society representatives visited the Council of Europe. Members of Belarusian NGOs attended the winter session of PACE held in Strasbourg (France). The participants included representatives of the Office for a Democratic Belarus (Brussels), Belarusian Association of UNESCO Clubs, the Liberal Club and other organizations. Belarusian representatives met their European counterparts to discuss participation in international programmes for small cities development, youth outreach and other issues.

PACE winter cession focus discussion topics included security issues following the Paris (France) terrorist attacks and the tragic shooting at the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly magazine (7.01.2015), as well as the Ukrainian situation.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine by a majority vote. PACE deputies condemned the arrest of Ukrainian pilot Nadezhda Savchenko by the Russian authorities and agreed to grant her international immunity as a deputy and a friend of the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the Council of Europe.

Mark Feygin (second left), lawyer for Nadezhda Savchenko

In a separate norm of the resolution, the deputies called on Russia to release the Ukrainian pilot. Also, by a vote on January 28, PACE deputies suspended Russia's voting rights in the Council of Europe. This EC meeting thus excluded the Russian delegation from the Assembly's leading bodies.

Sergey Naryshkin (third right), Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation

Representatives of Belarusian NGOs visited the European Youth Center. Participants of the meeting discussed prospects of collaboration and future projects for young people from Belarus. A promising perspective today is taking part in the European Youth Forum, in non-formal education programmes, etc.

Olga Stuzhinskaya (second right), Director of the Office for a Democratic Belarus

European Youth Center is currently interested in expanding cooperation with Belarusian organizations, whose participation in joint projects and campaigns is welcome and encouraged. The website of the center lists opportunities open to Belarusians – in particular, within the framework of the Enter! project (2013-2015) dedicated to the issue of youth social inclusion. The project is aimed at ensuring fast social integration of young people, preventing youth homelessness and building partnerships with regional and local authorities. The project includes a number of trainings on the realization of youth social rights and effective participation of young people in the social and economic life.

Belarusian NGOs are encouraged to participate in the No Hate campaign against any forms of discrimination, intolerance, xenophobia and extremism. The No Hate civil campaign promotes peaceful coexistence in the modern multicultural society as one of the basic European values.

As for the historical and cultural development, as well as the spere of urban development, small cities in Belarus can currently take part in the COMUS (Community-led Urban Strategies in Historic Towns) international programme. The aim of the programme is to ensure participation of local communities in the national strategy for small cities development and to preserve their cultural and historical heritage. COMUS is a part of the Eastern Partnership Culture Programme, which is open to Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Although Belarus is not a friend of the European Council, thanks to ratification of conventions on culture, sports, fighting corruption, etc., Belarusian civil society representatives have an opportunity to participate in the international cooperation and general programmes. At the same time, Europe is becoming more interested in working with Belarus. Areas where opportunities for active cooperation are now emerging include local governance reforms, education, youth affairs and culture.