To the people of Belarus,
The Covid-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented social and economic suffering, coupled by a tragic loss of human life, around the world. According to official sources, as of 28th May, there were 38,956 known infections and 214 known deaths in Belarus.
As elected Members of the European Parliament and friends of the Belarusian people, we would like to express our admiration for the courage and resolve shown by you during these testing times and thus compensated to the extent possible the failure of the Belarusian authorities to recognise the magnitude of the potential spread of COVID-19 and consequantly to take adequate measures. The scale of self-organisation by ordinary citizens, who are generously helping one another as well as the most vulnerable, and the bravery shown by health care workers is a testimony to this. The European Union stands in solidarity with the people of Belarus and, indeed, with our broader European neighbourhood not only in words, but also in action.
For example, as part of the ‘Team Europe’ package which includes €80 million for the most immediate needs (especially in the health sector) and more than €883 million to support the socio-economic recovery, the EU has already pledged €60m in bilateral funds to help Belarus. As part of various other bilateral or regional programmes and instruments, Belarus has already benefited from the supply of medical devices and personal equipment, such as ventilators, laboratory kits, masks, and safety gear and equipment.
For example, 1,300 litres of disinfectants have been delivered to participants in the Green Schools project, and emergency medical services and respirators have been made available through cross-border cooperation projects. As part of cooperation with the Red Cross, the EU together with UNDP donated 1,100 litres of hand sanitizers to volunteers caring for the most vulnerable. Belarus will also no doubt benefit from the digital modernisation of Liachavičy District Clinic which has been completed using EU funds in 2018.
As part of the Team Europe package, Belarus will also benefit from a regional programme of €30 million for medical devices and supplies, as well as a €10 million Eastern Partnership Solidarity Programme to help the most affected parts of the population. Further €11.3 million has already been made available in small grants to civil society organisations. There are also further measures to mitigate the socio-economic impact of the pandemic, including a regional support programme of €120 million to provide liquidity to SMEs in the aftermath of the pandemic, accelerating the uptake of existing credit lines and grants for SMEs worth €200 million in local currencies, as well as €500 million available to our neighbours through the mobilisation of a major de-risking instrument of the European Fund for Sustainable Development.
This support is being implemented with partners, including the World Health Organisation, and the International Financial Institutions and relevant financial institutions from EU Member States.
The EU stands ready to continue helping the Belarusian authorities to fight the pandemic and its consequences, and to support it in implementing the measures suggested by the World Health Organisation. We call on the Belarusian government to act responsibly, and also ensure that fundamental human rights are respected.
At a time when we’re facing the common challenge of this cruel pandemic, we invite the Belarusian government to honour the sacrifices made, and the courage and resolve shown by the Belarusian people, by joining us in respecting fundamental human rights and the dignity of every person. The current pandemic will make the world more complex and fragmented, but the need to uphold fundamental values and dignity of every person will be ever more vital.
In this context, while we recognise that under the Belarusian constitution the presidential elections must be held before 30th August, we strongly urge the Belarusian government to ensure free, fair and safe conduct of the elections in the period preceding it (including ensuring that candidates can gather signatures in sufficient time and safe manner) and on the election day, according to OSCE standards and advise of health experts.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak at the building site of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant, construction continues with the nuclear fuel for the first reactor delivered on 6th May. Belarusian authorities continuously ignore concerns voiced by Belarusian civil society and the international community over the nuclear safety of the Belarus NPP and show no intention to implement the EU stress test recommendations.
Let us once against stress our admiration for the courage and resolve shown by you in these difficult time, and stress our enduring solidarity.
Andrius Kubilius MEP (European People’s Party, Lithuania)
Miriam Lexmann MEP (European People’s Party, Slovakia)
Sandra Kalniete MEP (European People’s Party, Latvia)
Heidi Hautala MEP (Greens/European Free Alliance, Finland)
Tomasz Frankowski MEP (European People’s Party, Poland)
Petras Auštrevičius MEP (Renew Europe, Lithuania)
Ivan Štefanec MEP (European People’s Party, Slovakia)
Sergey Lagodinsky MEP (Greens/European Free Alliance, Germany)
Siegfried Mureșan MEP (European People’s Party, Romania)
Reinhard Bütikofer MEP (Greens/European Free Alliance, Germany)