The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) and the Pan-European Regional Council (PERC) are following closely and with great concern the current situation in Belarus, after recent presidential elections. The ETUC and PERC demand the immediate release of trade unionists detained for having taken part in peaceful protests against falsified elections, notably Nikolai Zimin, former chairman of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union and Maxim Sereda, chairman of the UMTO the Independent Trade Union of Miners.
The ETUC and PERC denounce:
- The fraudulent conduct of the elections; main opposition candidates were harassed and not allowed to compete, while Dictator Alexander Lukashenko – in power since 1994 - was declared winner despite clear evidence that the majority of population voted against him.
- The use of force to suppress any discontent of people, as well as against peaceful protesters across the country, including arrests and detention of citizens.
- The suppression of internet and media, road blockades, detentions and intimidation of journalists in order to stop the flow of information about the situation in the country, and to prevent public discussion and any collective response to the electoral fraud.
- The persecution of workers who exercise their human right to suspend their work in protest.
The ETUC and PERC call Belarusian authorities to:
- Immediately stop any violence, release all arrested and imprisoned protestors, and take to justice all the officials responsible for excessive use of force against peaceful demonstrators.
- Engage in dialogue with the opposition in order to launch a new electoral process, under the supervision of the Election Committee that can be trusted by all the parties, including international observers.
- Ensure that internet connection is promptly restored, roads are deblocked, and journalists can freely do their work to inform the population about the situation in the country and outside.
The European trade union movement jointly urges the European Union to convene an urgent EU Summit to assess the Belarusian authority’s actions and review the EU relations with Belarus. This includes the reintroduction of commensurate sanctions for electoral fraud and violence as well as reconsidering cooperation with the country, including within the Eastern Partnership. Strengthening support to Belarusian civil society - including independent unions - and stopping any EU financial support to the government and state-controlled projects - including through multilateral development banks – must also be urgently addressed.
The ETUC and PERC are supporting:
- People of Belarus, who clearly expressed their choice and wish for political change.
- Independent unions of Belarus, the largest democratic and independent civil society movement.
- Labour, civil society and human rights activists who joined in protests against state capture, fraud and suppression of freedoms by the regime.
“The European trade union movement had no illusions about the nature of the Belarusian regime. While the release of political prisoners was enough for some EU officials to turn a new page in the relations with Belarus, it was clear that the regime was not, and is not, open to any real change. It has continued suppressing democratic institutions, independent civil society and trade union movement and has violated fundamental rights and freedoms of its citizens. The recent electoral campaign and the following new wave of repressions have clearly shown this. We support the demands of people of Belarus, Belarusian independent trade unions and civil society. We appreciate the recent EU High-Representative declarations. However, we call on the European Union for a strong and unequivocal reaction and for a reassessment of the relations with Belarus, in line with the EU values and principles. We are in contact with our brothers and sisters of the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions and express our solidarity to their longstanding fight for the respect of workers and trade union rights and freedom in the country” said Luca Visentini, ETUC and PERC General Secretary.