“We want to express our utmost support for the people of Belarus and for all democratic forces in the country. We must all do everything we can to support a peaceful transition to democracy. Yet it must be clear that this process has to be led by the people of Belarus, and they must determine their own future,” said Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir, President of the Nordic Council, at the meeting on 2 September.
Gunnarsdóttir stressed the extreme concern within the Nordic Council regarding the situation in Belarus, and said that the council will always stand up for democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and equal rights for all.
“We’re deeply honoured to meet you, and we admire your courage,” said Gunnarsdóttir in a direct greeting to Svetlana Tichanovskaja.
Tichanovskaja in Lithuania
Tichanovskaja took part in the meeting from Lithuania, which she travelled to immediately after the presidential election on 9 August, after dictator Alexander Lukashenko once again declared himself the winner. According to independent observers, the election was riddled with fraud. The European Union has not recognised the election result, for instance.
During the meeting, Svetlana Tichanovskaja expressed her sincere thanks to the Nordic Region and Europe.
“I hope you understand just how important the support of the Nordic and other European countries is for me and for our people in Belarus. We can see that we’re not alone in our struggle for freedom. This is very comforting. Thank you very much for your support. I also want to say that we are not the opposition any more, we are the majority. The regime is the opposition,” said Tichanovskaya.
In addition to the President of the Nordic Council, participants included Vice-President of the Nordic Council Oddný G. Harðardóttir and the chairpersons of the national delegations Erkki Tuomioja (Finland), Hans Wallmark (Sweden), Bertel Haarder (Denmark), and Michael Tetzschner (Norway).
Alexander Dabravolski of the Co-ordinating Council of the Belarusian opposition and Vytis Jurkonis, director of Freedom House in Vilnius, Lithuania, also took part in the meeting.
Annual meetings with Belarus
The meeting was chaired by Erkki Tuomioja, who is the rapporteur for Belarus to the Presidium of the Nordic Council. Among other things, Tuomioja highlighted the Nordic Council’s active relationship with Belarus. Since 2007 the council has held annual joint meetings with the Belarusian opposition, NGOs, and representatives of the regime.
“The annual meetings are hugely important to the Nordic Council. We will continue holding them going forward and do our utmost to contribute to positive development in Belarus,” said Tuomioja.
Tuomioja stressed the importance of the meetings with the Belarusian opposition as a way to show the Nordic Council’s strong support for democratic forces in the country, as well as to promote dialogue between the parties.