IMG 1248   CopyMINSK, 24 January 2018 – Concluding three days of meetings in Belarus, Kent Harstedt (MP, Sweden), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Special Representative on Eastern Europe, called for increased efforts on reforms within the country while welcoming the active engagement of the country in international affairs and mediation.

In his first official visit as Special Representative on Eastern Europe, Harstedt met with the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko; the Chairman of the House of Representatives, Vladimir Andreichenko; the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei; the Chairperson of the Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina, and other officials. He also met with political opposition forces, and representatives from civil society and the international community in Minsk.

“Belarus’ capital, Minsk, has become almost synonymous with efforts to address major international crises, whether it’s the crisis in and around Ukraine or the Nagorno Karabakh conflict,” said Harstedt. “With the country making such contributions internationally, I call on the authorities to also prioritize democratic reforms that will help ensure all Belarusians have a full voice in their governance.”

During his visit in the Belarusian capital, the Special Representative also undertook study visits to the China-Belarus industrial park, the High-Tech Park and the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Harstedt, who served as Special Co-ordinator and leader of the short-term OSCE observer missions to the 2015 presidential and 2016 parliamentary elections, regretted that the process of electoral reform is not moving forward and called on the parliament and Central Election Commission to increase efforts in addressing and following up on election related recommendations by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

“I’m disappointed that more has not been done to address the much needed electoral reform, and urge a redoubling of efforts so that the 2020 elections will be held under a new and improved legislative framework,” said Harstedt.

The Special Representative noted that in recent years Belarus’ co-operation with the OSCE has progressed both in quantitative and qualitative terms. He encouraged Belarus to make the best use of the OSCE as an inclusive platform. “Belarus has been a strong contributor to peace efforts in Europe and the OSCE through hosting international negotiations as well as last year’s major OSCE parliamentary Session. As an organization, we also want to contribute to developments in Belarus, and have expertise in security, economic, environmental, and human rights fields that we’d be pleased to share.”

Reminding of OSCE PA calls for all OSCE states to work toward the abolition of the death penalty, Harstedt particularly encouraged further efforts in Belarus to this end.

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s largest gathering of 2017 was held in Minsk from 5-9 July. The meeting brought together some 260 parliamentarians from North America, Europe and Asia, and resulted in the adoption of the Minsk Declaration.