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Europe

EU to Offer Belarus Olive Branch

EU Foreign Ministers will next week offer Belarus the prospect of a "gradual development of bilateral relations" if concrete moves are taken toward democratization.

EU Foreign Ministers, who meet in Brussels on Monday, will call on President Lukashenko's government to "reverse their present policies and to embark on fundamental democratic and economic reforms," according to a draft statement. In return the EU is offering increased trade and political ties as part of its European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The prospect for Belarusian participation in the ENP has been on the table for some time, however, the statement looks set to offer a more gradual, bit-by-bit approach to developing ties. It also comes after elections and a referendum which international observers say were deeply flawed. The three-page text furthermore, sets out a series of concrete measures to help strengthen democrats in the country among them "directly and indirectly" supporting "democratic forces" and promoting closer EU integration "to the Belarusian population at large." As recently threatened, the EU will also extend its visa ban against "officials directly responsible for the fraudulent elections and referendum." (EUobserver.com)

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