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IRI Expert Discusses COVID-19, Protecting Democracy in Europe and Protests in Belarus in Testimony to House Foreign Affairs Committee

September 10, 2020

Washington, D.C. –  On September 10, IRI Resident Program Director for Transatlantic Strategy Joanna Rohozinska testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on the challenges COVID-19 poses to European democracies and the democratic awakening in Belarus. 

In her testimony, Rohozinska focused on disinformation in Europe, COVID-19 as a driver of social cohesion, Belarusians demands for accountability and the women leading the protest movement in Belarus. She also offered her recommendations for the international community as they respond to the pro-democracy movement in Belarus:

"The crowds that come out to the streets of cities, towns and villages of Belarus are calling for accountability, transparency, fairness and respect. And that in part is thanks to the work of IRI, along with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), Solidarity Center and National Endowment for Democracy (NED), as well as IRI’s European partners. 
 
The Civic Forum of the Eastern Partnership conducted a monitoring mission to Belarus in August and formulated a series of recommendations to the EU and member states. Additionally, the EU and its individual members continue to make strong statements of the state of affairs in Belarus. Coordinating strategies with transatlantic allies should be a priority and include:

  • Calls for dialogue between the authorities and representatives of the Belarusian people. 
  • Calls for immediate release of political prisoners, as well as dismissal of any pending cases, charges and fines against those detained. 
  • Support the political opposition’s demands for holding new elections under international supervision and beginning negotiations on a post-Lukashenka transition.
  • Increasing long-term support to democracy-building efforts, including providing institutional assistance to independent media, particularly those within the country, and fostering civic activism in the country’s regions. 
  • Broadening of sanctions against the Lukashenka regime and its supporters. 
  • Reintroducing targeted economic sanctions.
  • Withdrawing funding to programs involving state institutions, including professional training exchanges."