Foreign Minister Heiko Maas issued the following statement today (16 December) on the awarding of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to the Belarusian democratic opposition:
I congratulate the democratic opposition in Belarus on being awarded this year’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, which was received on behalf of the opposition by Svetlana Tikhanovskaya. I especially want to congratulate all those women and men who resolutely take to the streets every single week, in a grass-roots fight for their rights.
The many people who are being held in custody, for whom the price of their taking a stand is detention, are a reminder to us all that the right to freedom of thought cannot be overvalued. The COVID‑19 pandemic must not be used as an excuse to restrict the freedoms of Belarusian citizens. These freedoms are enshrined in law throughout Europe, and we stand firmly with the pro-democracy movement in calling for them to be respected.
The pro-democracy protests in Belarus began when our Presidency of the Council of the EU was getting under way. Since Mr Lukashenko is continuing to try and violently suppress reality in his country, we in the European Union are putting together another, third package of sanctions that targets those in Belarus who are responsible and who are providing financial support.