As the six-month EU-Belarus dialogue period draws to a close, this monitoring report has been prepared by Belarusian civil society organisations and their international partners1 to ensure that detailed information regarding the actual situation on the ground in Belarus is available to decision makers reviewing the EU decision on suspending sanctions for Belarus.

The report draws the following conclusions:

  • The steps taken by the Belarusian authorities during this dialogue period have
    been primarily cosmetic and are ultimately reversible; the process has been neither systematic nor institutionalized. While a small number of organizations have benefited, little has been done to facilitate the functioning of independent civic and media sectors in any meaningful manner.

  • The minor changes have not addressed the core problems facing civil society in Belarus today. On-going restrictions on human rights and fundamental freedoms continue to cause concern and demonstrate that Belarus has not yet begun a meaningful democratization process. In particular, the authorities’ repression against young political and civic activists, as well as religious minorities, continues unabated. But rather than creating more political prisoners, more subtle forms of repression, including forced military service and “restricted freedom” (house arrest) are increasingly being utilized to control civic and political activists.

  • While the recent steps by the Belarusian government are welcome, they can only be considered minimal efforts designed to demonstrate a modicum of good will to the EU and a willingness to continue with a process of controlled liberalization. During a February 2009 visit, Goran Lindblad, chairman of the Political Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), declared that “There hasn’t been even symbolic progress on democracy in Belarus so far.”


    Although independent civil society and the political opposition have been invited to offer their ideas for reforms, genuine dialogue has yet to take place. The three councils established by the authorities do allow a small number of independent experts and politicians to meet with the regime and express their views, but the bodies are advisory and have no influence on governmental decision-making. To date there is no evidence that any ideas originating from outside of governmental circles have been incorporated into strategies for change.


During a meeting with Javier Solana, EU High Representative for a common foreign and security policy, President Lukashenka publically stated that he would prefer Brussels to “exclude any mediators” from the EU-Belarus dialogue. His concept of a dialogue is strictly between government officials, excluding domestic and international civil society, such as Belarus’ democratic opposition.3 EU officials have countered by insisting that civil society and the democratic political opposition must be part of the dialogue process.

The following key events can be observed from the period under review:

  • The Belarusian authorities released a “non-paper” that identified a small number of issues that were subsequently addressed as part of the on-going dialogue with the EU. These were allowing two independent newspapers (Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Volya) to return to official circulation and distribution lists, organizing a round table on the new media law in cooperation with the OSCE, and offering to hold detailed discussions with OSCE/ODIHR on improving the electoral code.

  • A number of "additional steps" by the Belarusian authorities towards the liberalisation of the country not specifically foreseen in the non-paper were also taken. These included:

o Registration of the NGO “For Freedom.”

o Registration of the Homel branch of BPF opposition political party.

o Establishment of three advisory public councils

Read more: BIIM Monitoring Belarus Feb Update