The history, cultural identity and heritage of Belarus give it key significance in the overall development of Eastern Europe and as a bridge between east and west.
The participation of Belarus in the Eastern Partnership therefore has major strategic, economic and cultural significance for our Member States.
However, historical and cultural development must also be taken into account when forging closer ties between Belarus and the EU, namely by carefully selecting and applying EU instruments for democratisation and modernising regional and local authorities.
Owing to insufficient efforts on the part of Belarus, the European Parliament has been unable to ratify the 1995 bilateral partnership and cooperation agreement (PCA) between the EU and Belarus.
This means that there is no formal basis for cooperation and that Belarus is not a fully-fledged partner of the European Neighbourhood Policy.
Werner Jostmeier however notes the willingness and commitment of local and regional authorities to use all available resources to support the Eastern Partnership and form closer ties with Belarus whilst underlining that Belarus must also be prepared to declare its support for universal human rights and abolishing the death penalty.
In this way, it would be a true demonstration of its willingness to pursue and implement a genuine course of reform, which should also include fundamental modernisation measures in connection with local and regional self-government.
Examples for strengthening participation include twinning projects, city partnerships and discussion forums with civil society organisations and interregional and cross-border cooperation, especially with the neighbouring states of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Within this regard, the rapporteur welcomes the diplomatic activities between Belarus and the Ukraine, Georgia and Azerbaijan because this points to an independent, multilateral development of regional cooperation among the countries between the Baltic and Black Seas.