Belarus' President Aleksander Lukashenko believes that time has come to revise his country's relationship with the Council of Europe, runs the statement the Belarussian president's press office circulated Monday due to a meeting of the Political Affairs Commission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which has opened in Vilnius. "The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly should not remain hostages of their 5-year-long decisions and ignore the changes that have been brought about in Belarus," reads the statement. PACE stripped Belarus off its status of a "specially invited" delegate after a republican referendum of 1996. The Council claimed the referendum did not comply with international democratic norms and the Belarussian constitution. The republican parliament was then dissolved as a result of the referendum and the new one was formed. The new parliament was actually subordinate to the executive power. Today, the Belarussian authorities are taking every step aiming to liberalize the economy, with the country's political elite discussing further contacts with the Council of Europe. "It is not fair to turn a blind eye to the steps the Belarussian authorities are taking to promote further democratization of the country." To promote partnership with Belarus, PACE should consider allowing Belarussian MPs to attend Parliamentary Assembly sessions as specially invited delegates again, according to President Lukashenko.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated