World Press Freedom Day: Independent and free press must remain a priority for the EU

On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the ALDE Group in the European Parliament expresses its concern about the continuing deterioration of press freedom and media pluralism around the globe. The latest world press freedom index issued by Reporters Without Borders, which ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists, illustrates an increase in the number of countries where press freedom faces grave threat.

MEP, Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania), ALDE Group’s coordinator in Subcommittee on Human Rights, said: Continue reading

EU must reconsider its relations with Belarus, following Lukashenko’s crackdown on civilians

The ALDE Group in the European Parliament strongly condemns the massive crackdown launched by riot police on protesters trying to hold a banned march in Belarus. Almost a thousand people were arrested and many of them were beaten by police and needed medical attention over the weekend.

MEP Hans van Baalen (VVD, The Netherlands), ALDE Group’s coordinator in Foreign Affairs Committee, said:

“In Belarus thousands took to the streets in peaceful protest but were rounded up and arrested en masse. If Belarus truly wants to improve its ties with the West and reduce its dependency on Russia then it must stop treating opposition and discerning voices with such heavy-handed approaches. The Belarusian authorities should release all political prisoners immediately.”

ALDE MEP, Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania) said this is the worst assault by the authorities in Belarus against unarmed civilians, in the last 7 years:

“The repression of protesters in Belarus is unprecedented in scale since 2010. Sadly, they come exactly one year after the EU Council’s decision to enter into a so-called re-engagement policy with Minsk. President Lukashenko showed reciprocity by rigging parliamentary elections in September 2016, by keeping the death penalty in force and by clamping down on peaceful protesters in the streets of Minsk and across the country. I am convinced that the EU’s stance towards Lukashenko’s regime has been wrong  and should be put on a firmer  values – based foundation. The EU should suspend its financial assistance going directly to Lukashenko’s government and instead support those who strive for a European and democratic Belarus. All those responsible for violent acts must be put on the sanctions list.”

Protesters in Belarus took the streets in reaction to a new labour law that forces citizens to pay the government the equivalent of 240 EUR if they work less than six months in a year, or if they fail to register with state labour exchanges.

ENDS Continue reading

ALDE Group calls on Russian authorities to immediate release Yabloko activist Kiril Bobro

ALDE MEP, Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania), calls for the immediate release of the leader of the Youth Yabloko branch in Stavropol (South Russia), Kiril Bobro, who was jailed last week by the Russian authorities.

Bobro was detained on whats seems to be trumped up charges of drugs’ possession, following a search of his apartment conducted by the Centre for Combating Extremism. In February Kiril Bobro organized a series of commemorative events in Stavropol in memory of the murdered leader of the liberal opposition Boris Nemtsov.

Petras Auštrevičius said Kirill Bobro is persecuted for his public and political activity:
“Kirill Bobro, a young activist of Yabloko in Stavropol, is facing imprisonment on what are the fabricated charges. I join all those who demand to free Kirill immediately. Persecution and harassment of all those who stand for an open and democratic Russia must be stopped.”

Chair of Parliament’s Afghanistan delegation on the Delegation visit to Kabul (20-22 February 2017)

Following his visit to Kabul from 20-22 February 2017, the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Afghanistan, Petras Auštrevicius made today the ensuing statement:

“We had an intense programme of three days in Kabul covering a broad range of issues. It was particularly important to re-establish relations with the EU Friendship Group of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House) and to meet the Speaker of the Mesherano Jirga (Upper House). In a joint declaration with the Friendship Group, we underlined the central role of stable democratic institutions for our societies. We made clear that we would continue to support the Afghan efforts for security and reconciliation based on the rule of law and human rights. Peace, security and stability are the basis for social-economic development, welfare and education in the country. Moreover, we jointly welcomed the outcome of the Brussels Donors Conference from 4-5 October 2016. In this context, we emphasized the need for the international community to continue its support to Afghanistan. The European Parliament’s Delegation underscored the commitment to fight against corruption and ensure sound management of the available financial resources in full transparency and accountability. Against this background, we agreed that the EU-Afghanistan Cooperation Agreement on Partnership and Development (CAPD) would rise political and economic relations to a higher level. Finally, we called on efficient cooperation in order to cope with the migration issue, by improving border management, proving asylum to eligible seekers in the EU and assisting voluntary and supported returns.” Continue reading

PRESS STATEMENT by Petras Auštrevičius, MEP, Rapporteur of the European Parliament on Moldova

Brussels, 3 February 2017

The EU-Moldova relations are put on the foundations of the Association Agreement, which first and foremost means a European way of Moldova’s development.

It also implies – and this is very important – that Moldova is committed to respect the basic human rights, supremacy of the rule of law, which contains freedom of the media in the first place.

Without these basics of all basics, without a genuine tolerance of a different opinion and without inclusion of all society layers into the state affairs it is no way one can expect a success in Europeanisation of Moldova.

I therefore certainly welcome all and every progress that is achieved by the Moldovan Government in implementation of its Association agenda commitments. Continue reading

Migration problems in Afghanistan require urgent solutions, says MEP Auštrevičius

“International community and the Government of Afghanistan must stick to their financial pledges and political commitments given at the Brussels donors’ conference of October 2016,” said the Chair of the European Parliament’s Delegation for relations with Afghanistan Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE, LT) in a recent EP’s delegation meeting. He also asked for concrete steps to tackle the migration problems in the country. Continue reading

ALDE Group welcomes EU visa-free travel for Georgians

The European Parliament approved today the European Commission’s proposal to grant visa-free regime for Georgians who travel to the EU.

ALDE MEP Javier Nart (Ciudadanos, Spain), shadow rapporteur on Georgia, said this is an important step in EU’s relations with this country and a result of Tblisi’s efforts to fulfil the requirements:

“Europe is an open and inclusive continent and Georgia is one of its most ancient nations. Welcome, Georgians, to this common space of freedoms, solidarity and dignity called the European Union.”

ALDE MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania) welcomes visa-free travel for Georgians and hopes the EU will approve similar agreements with other states from the Eastern Partnership:

“Finally the EU has made a step forward in recognising Georgia`s progress in meeting visa free requirements. By building partnerships not walls, the EU must remain open for its partners, that are doing their best in complying with high EU standards. I therefore hope for a speedy resolution of visa liberalisation with Ukraine in a very close future.”

Visa liberalisation will enhance people-to-people contact, including for students, academics, teachers and businessmen and it will also increase Georgia’s attractiveness for the population in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia region, contributing to the peaceful resolution of these conflicts.

MEPs call on Austrian Ministry of Justice to prevent the extradition of Nail Malyutin to Russia

ALDE MEP Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania) has today urged the Austrian Minister of Justice to prevent the extradition tomorrow of Russian whistle-blower Nail Malyutin to Russia, until the circumstances of his case are re-examined and determined by the competent authorities of the Republic of Austria.

In a letter co-signed by ALDE MEPs Urmas Paet and Marietje Schaake together with MEPs from EPP, S&D and Greens, Members of the European Parliament recall the cases of other Russian dissidents, including Sergei Magnitsky and Ildar Dadin:

We are extremely concerned that if he is extradited to Russia,Malyutin will not be provided with safety and a fair trial.”
Looking at other cases of Russian dissidents being arrested, such as Mr Sergei Magnitsky, whose imprisonment subsequently ended in death, and Mr Ildar Dadin, who was subjected to torture by prison staff, we plead you not to pre-determine this destiny for Mr Malyutin.” Continue reading

ALDE Group calls for immediate release of jailed Russian activist, Ildar Dadin

MEPs called for the immediate and unconditional release of Ildar Dadin, a Russian activist sentenced to jail for two and a half years for a series of street protests. Ildar Dadin, aged 34, told his lawyer has been repeatedly beaten and threatened after he was transferred to Prison Number Seven, in the Karelia region of north-western Russia in mid-September and sent directly to a punishment cell.

ALDE Group Vice-President, Petras Petras Auštrevičius (Liberal Movement of Lithuania), warned on the new amended Criminal Code of the Russian Federation that places new restrictions on public gatherings which are considered a criminal act:

“Ildar Dadin, a courageous citizen of Russia, is repeatedly tortured, beaten and threatened to be murdered in a Russian jail for holding a banner on which was written “If you keep silent today, they will come to you tomorrow and the others will keep silent”.
Ildar Dadin was the first person in Russia sentenced under the new law while over a hundred political prisoners have followed and I call for their immediate release.”

“To keep the power, Putin chose to withdraw Russia from the civilised community of the rule of law, as it was the case recently with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. At the same time, Moscow no longer obeys to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.Continue reading