On 28 May 2021, the European Commission is presenting to the Council its outline for a comprehensive plan of economic support to a future democratic Belarus. The plan, of up to €3 billion, reflects the European Union's commitment to support the Belarusian people's wishes for a peaceful democratic transition in the country following the Presidential elections of August 2020, which were neither free nor fair.
Once Belarus embarks on a democratic transition, the EU will activate the €3 billion package, a mix of grants and loans leveraging public and private investments, to help Belarus to stabilise its economy, reform its institutions to make them more democratic and help increase the economy's resilience, growth potential and job creation.
The newly presented outline highlights several indicative measures to enhance Belarus' resilience:
First, through direct financial support the EU will boost the country's economic recovery. This will help restore macro-economic stability in Belarus and strengthen its precarious fiscal situation. In addition, the EU will organise an EU-Belarus High Level Investment Forum to expand investment and trade opportunities and an EU High Level Donor Meeting to raise additional EU grant resources required to finance and mobilise EU expertise and investments to support the economic transition. With these initiatives, the EU expects to mobilise up to €1.5 billion* in EU loans as well as public and private investments.
Second, the EU will mobilise a Transition Package of up to €400 million in grant assistance under the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation (NCIDI)-Global Europe to support the democratic transition and address key structural reforms. This will include enhancing the quality of justice, improving business environment and supporting SME's development. EU funding will also aim to contribute to the education and health care systems reform and provide assistance to strengthening social safety nets and protecting the most vulnerable households. Support to civil society, including enhancing their role in decision-making at all levels of government and work as watchdog and support for a free and independent media, will remain at the core of the EU's actions.
Third, the EU will invest in sustainable infrastructures and the green and digital transformation. In partnership with International Financial Institutions, the EU expects to mobilise up to €100 million in grant funding to leverage up to €1 billion of key public and private investments supporting the country's green and digital transformation, connectivity and access to finance for Belarusian SMEs.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Our messages are twofold. To the people of Belarus: we see and hear your desire for change, for democracy, and for a bright future. And to the Belarusian authorities: no amount of repression, brutality or coercion will bring any legitimacy to your authoritarian regime. So far, you have blatantly ignored the democratic choice of the Belarusian people. It is time to change course. When – and we believe it is a case of when, not if – Belarus starts its peaceful democratic transition, the EU will be there to accompany it.”
The EU is ready to substantially step up its political engagement, sectoral cooperation, and financial assistance to Belarus provided that its authorities respect the principles of democracy, the rule of law and human rights, by stopping repression and abuses, promoting a serious, credible and inclusive political process resulting in free and fair elections under the OSCE/ODIHR's observation, and providing guarantees for respect for human rights. ECOPNET (European Cooperation and Partnership Network) reiterates its full support to seek a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis through an inclusive national dialogue with broader society.
Since the 9 August 2020 presidential elections and the brutal response by the authorities, which continues to date, the European Union has been carefully following the situation in Belarus. The EU is impressed by the courage of the Belarusian people who continue to strive for democracy and for their fundamental rights, despite the brutal repression of the authorities.
The European Council conclusions on Belarus of 12 October 2020 encouraged the European Commission to prepare a comprehensive plan of economic support for democratic Belarus. In line with these conclusions, the EU has also reviewed its relations with Belarus, scaled-down bilateral cooperation with the Belarusian authorities at the central level and increased support for the Belarusian people and civil society.
Source: European Commission Press Corner