The European Commission's own rules of procedure are the main obstacle in stepping up aid to the democratic opposition in Belarus, as the country heads for a potentially explosive confrontation with Alexander Lukashenko's government ahead of the 2006 elections.
"The problem is not the Belarusian regime, but our financial regulations and the open and transparent way in which we have to operate our projects", Raul de Lutzenberger, the former head of the commission's Minsk desk told MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday (9 June), adding "It's not Belarus that will accuse us of using the money badly, but our own controllers".
Mr de Lutzenberger, who lived in Minsk for four years before moving to lead Brussels' delegation to Moldova, said that any proposals - such as a call by Polish and Lithuanian MEPs to set up independent radio stations on the EU-Belarusian border - must meet strict transparency, auditing, relevance and efficiency criteria before they get the green light.
MEPs on the European Parliament's eastern European-dominated Belarus delegation also complained about the assymetrical nature of Brussels' approach to the Belarusian challenge.
"Don't try to use normal ways with an abnormal dictatorship", Lithuanian centre-right member Aldis Kusis told Mr de Lutzenberger at the Strasbourg meeting.
Based in London, we are an informal group dedicated to supporting democracy and human rights throughout
the former Soviet Union. Our aims are:
Informing the public about issues in this area that receive little coverage in the Western media.
Staging peaceful demonstrations and letter-writing campaigns in support of specific causes.
Supporting and publicising nonviolent pro-democracy groups throughout the region.
Encouraging European and American involvement.
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Third Way, the Belarusian organisation whose members are being prosecuted for producing satirical cartoons about Lukashenka,
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We are continuing to focus our efforts on the Belarusian prisoner of conscience Mikhail Marinich.
We are campaigning for him to receive proper medical treatment, to be permitted to see his family,
and ultimately to be released from prison pending a review of his case. You can help by distributing
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