The European Union regrets that it must once again express its concern about developments in Belarus following the Belarusian National Assembly’s decision to approve in first reading a draft Anti-Revolution Bill amending the penal code. The provisions of the bill seem to go entirely against many of Belarus’ human rights commitments, notably the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression. This legislation appears to be a clear attempt to intimidate Belarusians and stifle free speech as Belarus approaches presidential elections.

The EU urges the Belarusian National Assembly to reconsider their decision and to reject the draft legislation, especially in the light of Belarus’ OSCE Human Dimension Commitments. The EU also calls on the Belarusian authorities to take concrete steps to demonstrate their willingness to respect democratic values and the rule of law, so that we can begin to develop closer and deeper relations.

Adopting such undemocratic legislation could incur serious consequences for Belarusian authorities. The EU recalls its readiness to take further appropriate restrictive measures against the responsible individuals in the event of failure to uphold international standards, as set out in the General Affairs and External Relations Council Conclusions of 7 November.

The EU underlines its willingness to act alongside international partners, in particular the US, in urging the responsible Belarusian authorities to reject the draft Anti-Revolution bill.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Countries Turkey and Croatia1, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this declaration.

1 Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process.