The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz gave an exclusive interview to charter97.org.
Martin Schulz met with charter97.org editor-in-chief Natallia Radzina in Brussels.
- Mr.President how can you explain the difference between your position of principle on the dictatorship in Belarus and today's attempt of the EU Council to lift sanctions from the criminals of Lukashenka's regime?
- This is a very difficult choice. The European Union, the governments of the Union must make a choice between isolating the dictator and not violating the interests of ordinary citizens in the country. For me as the President of the European Parliament it is more comfortable, I have much of maneuver to attack and say ‘no’, for me it is much larger than for the governments. They have to take into account very specific interests of the countries always in the frame that an economic boycott affects normally more ordinary citizens more than the upper class in the governmental structures. Therefore I would not be too fast to criticize such a position.
- This year Minsk official representatives were not invited to Euronest. The opposition was invited and participated. It was a serious demonstration of support for the democratic movement of Belarus. Maybe such practice could be used for Eastern Partership Summit in Vilnius and only the democratic opposition be invited to participate?
- The European Parliament has chosen the invitation of the civil society and opposition representatives as a model. If other institutions or the European Union or the acting presidency, in this case the Lithuanian presidency, chose a similar structure, it could be a possibility, but it is not my role to give an advice to them. They could look to us and, I think, our decision was a success.
- You think that government officials can not participate in the summit?
- At least it is possible that Belarusian opposition leaders could be received at the margin of such a summit. They for sure could not participate officially in the summit, but to invite Belarusian opposition representatives to meet with high-ranking representatives of the member-states and the institutions of the Union at the margin of the summit is for sure possible.
- Why Germany pays less attention to the situation in Belarus today?
- I do not believe that Germany pays less attention to the situation in Belarus. I am German and as the President of the European Parliament coming from Germany, and my party, for example in Germany was the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, we never left a single doubt that we are looking to this dictatorship. And I can tell you I mentioned just recently, when President Dalia Grybauskaite was awarded the Karlspreisprize in Aachen, the highest award for a European acting politician in the European Union, I mentioned the case of Lukashenka as the last dictator that has to leave and disappear in Europe with a broad applause of the whole public present there. So in Germany there is a debate. That the German federal government does not care sufficiently I could not agree. They are looking always with the Foreign Affairs Minster Westerwelle, who is not a party friend of mine, I think he just recently once more mentioned the violation of human and civil rights in Belarus.
- What would you like to say to social-democrat Nikolai Statkevich who is in prison today?
- We do the upmost to bring him to freedom, to relieve him from the prison. My party leader Sigmar Gabriel is intensively in contact with his family, a part of his family lives in Germany, so we try to support him by all our means. He is one of the most suffering victims of the system.
- You said that Lukashenka has blood on his hands. What should the policy of the West be as regards the regime?
- That is why I repeat what I said – we must try to isolate the dictator without isolating the country. This is not easy. Your first question was on lifting the visa restrictions against some of the representatives of the regime. What we should avoid is that Mr. Lukashenka plays with us, because his strategy during the last years was in making small steps, concessions and compromises from time to time, forgetting something and then – next step – increasing the repressions within the country. The man should know clearly, even if he partially cooperates with the EU, to avoid that your people, your country is suffering even more. «Your time is limited» – this must be the message, clearly. And to other countries that are cooperating with him intensively – that the European Union cannot accept that we, on one hand, cooperate with them, and they cooperate with Lukashenka. Isolation means that we must show to the outside world that there is no chance in the middle and long-term for Mr. Lukashenka to survive politically.
- And the last question. My experience, when I was in prison after the elections in 2010, a KGB officer asked me «Why did you meet the President of the European Parliament? Why did you meet the President of the European Parliament?» I said that I never met the President of the European Parliament, it was Jerzy Buzek at the time. And then the showed me a picture in which I was with Lech Walesa, a former president of Poland. He thought it was Jerzy Buzek, the President of the European Parliament. But as I understood, for KGB it was a crime that a Belarusian oppositionist or an independent journalist met the President of the European Parliament. Why are they so afraid of you?
- For Europe-wide and even worldwide public the European Parliament is a place where the crimes of dictatorships are discussed and blamed. It is a place with a highest audience, with a highest visibility. This is the European Parliament, we have 750 members from 27, soon 28 states, and a debate here is always very uncomfortable for dictatorships, because this is Europe and via Europe there is spotlight on them. Therefore they fear us and that is good.