Commission launches further support for independent broadcasting in Belarus

The European Commission has begun preparations for a €2 million project to increase access in Belarus to independent sources of news and information. This follows the €138.000 contract already granted to Deutsche Welle Radio which will begin broadcasting via radio and Internet on November 1st. Interested broadcasters have until 11th October to signal their interest in a new contract for co–production and broadcasting on television and radio in Belarusian and Russian over a period of two years starting on 1st January 2006. The aim is to provide access to independent information about events in Belarus and in the outside world, and to enhance the knowledge of the Belarusian population about democracy, pluralism, rule of law, freedom of the press and human rights.

The Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner said:

“I am deeply committed to helping the people of Belarus. The human rights situation in Belarus is deteriorating, and if the country is to find its way onto the path to democracy, the people need access to free media. The lack of freedom of expression, and the constraints on the media in the country, are a matter for grave concern and the European Commission is treating this as priority issue”.

Candidates for the contract may be individual broadcasters or consortia of smaller companies, who are already operating in the region. The tender is open to broadcasters, or consortia who can demonstrate an annual turnover of more than €3 million.

As a first step, on 1st November Deutsche Welle will commence 15 minute daily broadcasts Monday to Friday, specifically dedicated to Belarus, with news and reports from inside Belarus, information about political, social, economic matters, daily life etc. as well as Internet presentation, with the text of the broadcast and related audio files.

The EU maintains restrictions on ministerial-level contacts with the Belarusian authorities, but at the same time supports civil society and democratisation in Belarus. An EU visa ban is in place against high-ranking officials who have been implicated in election fraud, severe human rights violations and repression of demonstrators.

The Commission has undertaken major concrete steps for increasing EU support for NGOs and civil society in Belarus. €2 million are being transferred from the Belarus Tacis National programme to the more flexible European Initiative for Human Rights and Democracy instrument, which allows for financing of projects without the prior agreement of the Belarus government.

In total €8.7 million has been earmarked in 2005 for support of democracy and human rights.

Project identification is underway for the TACIS National Indicative Programme 2005-2006 (€8 million) in the fields of sustainable development, higher education & training and alleviation of the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

Tendering procedures can be found on the EuropeAid calls and tender database:  

For more information on EU/Belarus relations please see:
The EU's relations with Belarus