NEWS WATCH: Austria, Germany, Visegrad Group Condemn Belarus Crackdown

By BosNewsLife News Center

Visegrad group celebrating 20th anniversary amid concerns over crackdown on dissidents in Belarus.
Visegrad group celebrating 20th anniversary amid concerns over crackdown on dissidents in Belarus.


BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)-- The Austrian and German chancellors and prime ministers of Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland have condemned the arrests of dissidents in Belarus and say they support a travel ban and freeze of assets of Belarus officials.

They made the statement after a summit in Bratislava to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the four nation Visegrad Group, where government leaders also expressed the need for more energy security in Europe.

The leaders said they are "seriously concerned" by the aftermath of "fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus on December 19," 2010.

The statement was signed by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Slovakia's Prime Minister Iveta Radicova, her Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orbán, Poland's Donald Tusk and Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas.

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DISSIDENTS ATTACKED

They also accused the Belarusian authorities of violence against dissidents and said Minsk should "immediately release all political prisoners and rehabilitate them."

Evangelical Christians and other church groups have also complained of government harassment.

The government leaders expressed support for a travel ban on those involved in the regime of autocratic President Alexander Lukashenko and called for the freezing of assets of these officials. He has denied wrongdoing.

The statement was came as they they remembered the foundation of the Visegrad Group in the Hungarian town of Visegrad. Established by Hungary, Poland and then Czechoslovakia, the group, also known as V4, was aimed to help each other with democracy and European integration following the collapse of Communism.

ENERGY SECURITY

Amid political turmoil in countries such as Belarus, summit participants also said it was crucial to boost European energy security by extending and deepening the internal energy market.

They said they wanted to diversify the routes, sources and suppliers of energy carriers and to develop the energy infrastructure, "including the implementation of the North-South gas interconnections and modernization of the oil and electricity networks."

There has been concern, especially in several Eastern European countries, about Europe's dependency on natural gas supplies from Russia.

Government officials were also reminded not to forget the environment in their discussions. Activists of environmental group Greenpeace greeted them with masks resembling several prime ministers.

Greenpeace said Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic should do more to tackle dangerous emission's from ailing industries.

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